Human - Etymology and Definition

Etymology and Definition

Further information: Man (word) and List of alternative names for the human species

With the discovery and study of fossil ancestors of modern humans the meaning of the word "human" changed, as the previously clear boundary between human and ape blurred, now encompassing multiple species. Today in scientific usage "human" may refer to any member of the genus Homo. Furthermore within Homo sapiens, there is a distinction between anatomically modern Homo sapiens and Archaic Homo sapiens, the earliest fossil members of the species. Sometimes groups such as the Neanderthals are classified as a subspecies of Homo sapiens - Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. However, in everyday usage, and in this article, the word "human" generally refers to the only extant species of the genus - anatomically and behaviorally modern Homo sapiens. The open question about possible extinct subspecies will be briefly covered. Fossil humans are covered in the article "Homo", and in the articles about individual species of the genus.

The English adjective human is a Middle English loanword from Old French humain, ultimately from Latin hūmānus, the adjective form of homō "man". The word's use as a noun (with a plural: humans) dates to the 16th century. The native English term man can refer to the species generally (a synonym for mankind), and could formerly refer to specific individuals of either sex. The latter use is now obsolete. Generic uses of the term "man" are declining, in favor of reserving it for referring specifically to adult males. The word is from Proto-Germanic *mannaz, from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root *man-.

The species binomial Homo sapiens was coined by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th century work Systema Naturae, and he himself is the lectotype specimen. The generic name Homo is a learned 18th century derivation from Latin homō "man", ultimately "earthly being" (Old Latin hemō, a cognate to Old English guma "man", from PIE *dʰǵʰemon-, meaning 'earth' or 'ground'). The species-name sapiens means "wise" or "sapient".

Read more about this topic:  Human

Famous quotes containing the words etymology and/or definition:

    Semantically, taste is rich and confusing, its etymology as odd and interesting as that of “style.” But while style—deriving from the stylus or pointed rod which Roman scribes used to make marks on wax tablets—suggests activity, taste is more passive.... Etymologically, the word we use derives from the Old French, meaning touch or feel, a sense that is preserved in the current Italian word for a keyboard, tastiera.
    Stephen Bayley, British historian, art critic. “Taste: The Story of an Idea,” Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things, Random House (1991)

    Mothers often are too easily intimidated by their children’s negative reactions...When the child cries or is unhappy, the mother reads this as meaning that she is a failure. This is why it is so important for a mother to know...that the process of growing up involves by definition things that her child is not going to like. Her job is not to create a bed of roses, but to help him learn how to pick his way through the thorns.
    Elaine Heffner (20th century)