share or sharing

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share or sharing

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Dec 13, 2004 7:14 am

hello. i wonder if anybody could help me with the origin of the word 'share' or 'sharing". thanks
Submitted by Su-May Liew (Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia)
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share or sharing

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Dec 13, 2004 7:27 am

Su-May, I was about to tell you to look in the suggested online dictionaries, but when I did and then compared what they said with what the etymology dictionaries said, I realized that there was much more to the story – but maybe that’s why you asked the question.

SHARE: ‘Share,’ plough blade [Old English, circa 725], and the other ‘share’ meaning portion (the noun) [14th century] and ‘share’ meaning divide up (the verb) [16th century] are two distinct words, but they are ultimately related. The former came from the Germanic base ‘skar-,’ cut, which also produced English ‘score,’ ‘sharp,’ ‘shear,’ ‘shirt,’ ‘short,’ ‘skirt,’ etc. Its German relative is ‘shar,’ ploughshare.

‘Share,’ the portion, appears to be a survival of Old English ‘scearu’ (~1000), a cutting, shearing, division, which also appeared in compounds such as ‘land-scearu,’ division of land, boundary, and which was closely related to ‘sceran,’ ‘scieran,’ to cut, shear – source of English ‘shear.’ This was originally only recorded in the senses ‘groin’ or ‘pubic region’ (who said this word was not exciting?) and ‘tonsure’ (the shaved head of a monk) and it is interesting that the original (circa 1000) and now obsolete meaning of ‘share’ was “the bony pubis or pubic region, the fork of the human body, and ‘private’” – with the private presumably coming from the pubis being a private area. ‘Scearu’ was also cognate with Old Saxon ‘scara,’ share in a common field, division, troop (I suppose a troop being a division of manpower), Old High German ‘skara,’ troop, share of forced labor, (modern German ‘Schar,’ troop, multitude, band, crowd) Middle Low German ‘schare,’ troop, Middle Dutch ‘scare,’ troop, crowd (modern Dutch ‘schaar,’ ‘schare’)

But the two ‘shares’ share a meaning element (‘dividing’ in the case of the pubic region, the ‘forking’ of the body, and ‘cutting’ in the case of tonsure) that leads back to Germanic ‘skar-,’ ‘sker-,’ and suggests that ‘share,’ portion, denotes etymologically ‘cut’ up or divided between people. It is interesting that in its earliest appearances in print of ‘share’ (noun) portion (circa 1372) its specific meanings were a) the duty levied on fishing boats (the share they must pay) and b) the portion of prize-money due to each of the officers and men of a ship. But it very soon took on the general sense of any portion or share of something.

The phrase ‘share and share alike’ was first recorded circa 1556 in the context of splitting up spoils, which is just about the same time that ‘share’ (1553) meaning cut into parts first appeared and some 30 years before it was use to mean ‘to apportion to an individual as his share’ (the OED lists many definitions of share which are just subtly different in meaning). And it was Shakespeare that the OED credits with first using it in 1594 to mean “to participate ‘with’ (a person) ‘in’ something. “I am the Prince of Wales, and thinke not Percy, To SHARE with me in glory and more.”—‘Henry IV,’ v. iv.
<1398 “The ache is abowte the SHAAR and the twyste bytwene the genytours.”—‘ Bartholomeus (de Glanvilla) De Proprietatibus Rerum’ (1495) by Trevisa, VII. lv. page 268> [[the pubic area. Hmm! – sounds dirty to me.]]

<~1566 “Gjb, Let vs into the Courte to parte the spoyle, SHARE AND SHARE LIKE.—‘Damon & Pithias (1908) by R. Edwards>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins, Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, Merriam-Webster’s and Random House Unabridged Dictionaries)

Ken G – December 1, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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