Words

and how to use them

Love words? Want to find out more about copywriting and improve your writing skills? You’re in the right place. The etymology aficionados among you can explore the surprising origins of some everyday words. Meanwhile, the copywriting category has practical advice to help you use those words to engage and persuade your reader. And you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks drawn from my career as a professional copywriter to help you on your way.

The early origins of the word mask are aptly shrouded in uncertainty. We know that the English word is derived from the French masque, “covering to hide or guard the face”. And that this derives from the Medieval Latin masca, which has the broader meaning of a mask, spectre or...

The Greek god Pan was a merry and mischievous fellow, who could often be found in a forest glade making music, drinking wine and indulging in many and varied hedonistic frolics. As with most Greek gods though, jolly old Pan had a darker side. The half-man, half-goat sprite had the...

This evocative word is most often found in the phrase halcyon days, where it conjures up nostalgic images of endless childhood summers and carefree golden-hued jaunts. It’s surprising then, that the original halcyon days were a winter affair; and there’s plenty more of interest behind this gentle, sun-drenched little word. Greek legend...

The Hebrew word golem was used in medieval literature to mean an amorphous, unformed material. It also appears in Psalms with this meaning. In Jewish folklore, golems are mythical beings, created by people from clay, and magically animated so that they can walk, talk and serve their master (or not)....

It was in the early 19th century that the word berserk entered the English language. It was originally a noun used to describe the Norse warriors who were made infamous by the Icelandic Sagas for their savage and frantic fighting style. These vicious fighters are now more usually referred to as berserkers. Going into...

This Old English word was originally only used to refer to the source of a river or stream. Over time, its meaning broadened to mean the beginning of something more generally. By the 14th century, people would refer to dawn as 'the spring of the day', for example. 'The spring...

This word was first used in Old English to describe the action of quickly dipping under water and re-emerging soon after. The waterfowl we know as a duck then began to be referred to using the same word, simply because ducks were observed doing rather a lot of ducking while...

The surname of Judas Maccabeus, a Jewish priest who led a religious revolt in 165 BC, is the source of the word macabre. The holy man led the eponymous Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in Judea and was slaughtered alongside many of his followers in a gory massacre during the...