Monday, January 09, 2006


Can anyone help me find a patristic source for the etymology of the word religion? or any ancient source? I hear it is an augustinian thing, but...if anyone else has any ideas, that would be great. thanks.


cathedral dweller said...

It's an Augustinian thing, eh? Hm. The little bit of research I just did shows there's a variety of views on exactly where the word "religion" comes from.

According to good old Wikipedia it could come from:

re-reading--from Latin re (again) + legio (read), referring to the repetition of scripture.

treating carefully--from Latin relegere (Cicero's interpretation)

re-connection to the divine--from Latin re (again) + ligare (to connect, as in English ligament). This interpretation is favoured by modern scholars such as Tom Harpur, but probably originated with St. Augustine.

to bind or return to bondage--an alternate interpretation of the "reconnection" etymology, possibly also originating with Augustine but emphasising a sense of servitude to God. However, the bondage interpretation, while popular with critics of religion, is often considered imprecise and possibly offensive in many modern religious contexts.

concerning a gathering--from Latin ablative res (with regard to) + legere (to gather). More emphatically, religion concerns an organization.

What prompted the question?

biss said...


Kai said...

pasivirta, o shoeless one, o open toed one, get out of the city and come to Chilliwack. You're welcome to browse my library... nerd! :-)

Kai said...

I love you...!

biss said...

I love you, too, Kai.
I am about to telephone your wife concerning the food she makes. Ring ring.

Stacy said...


I'm seriously sitting here giggling!!

And I seriously can't stop. How funny!

biss said...

What? What's so funny? I do love him, and his wife makes a mean moose dish, among everything else she makes.

biss said...

and they are nerds!

Kai said...


pasivirta said...

thanks y'all, I appreciate your help.

Kai said...

David, you don't REALLY mean that....! You're just being polite, eh?
But, I really have an ancient book (ca. 1952) that has St. Augustin printed on it and on its inside it has several mention of religion... would that help? You know, I really, really want to help you here.

phil said...

Nerds you say? You aint seen nothin til you've seen these guys debating the virtues of footnotes vs. endnotes vs. parenthetical references, and whether the Chicago or MLA style of formatting is better.

I think they went on for about 40 minutes last thursday.

Of course I had nothing to say on the matter. :)

phil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
phil said...

It seems the origin of the word was debated even in antiquity. Cicero (obviously long before Augustine) is frequently cited, as cathedral dweller points out.

I think where Augustine comes in is his suggestion that it was related to religare to "bind fast." Note that the word rely also seems to derive from religare.

I'm not sure if there is any good reason to take this interpretation over earlier ones (eg. Cicero's), though it has certainly coloured the use of the word since. This is probably what shifted the usage from "respect for the gods, or what is sacred" to "those bound by vows" (ie. monastics). This latter usage of the word "religious" is still common among Roman Catholics, though almost never among Protestants.

cathedral dweller said...

I take it as a high honour to be graced with the term "nerd." And for those who resent the monicker "nerd," just think of it as you would olives - it's an acquired taste.

pasivirta said...

I too do not wince at such a referent, it bestows upon the bearer an air of...something, I know not what.

biss said...

Thanks, Sir John.

Kai said...

Nerd is a term of endearment! Little nerd, my dear little nerd, my dear is a little nerdy, nerdy is dear to me, etc. Just think what the world would look like would there be no nerds. We would all run around with steam powered cell phones....

MatJenny said...

THis reminds me of a t-shirt I heard about that said "talk nerdy to me"

Tee heeeeee.

Never mind 'religion' -- where does the word /nerd/ come from!?

Nerd nerd
Nerd is the word

biss said...

Mmmm...I like to eat nerds.

My word verification says: ggqgyj. It looks funny.

Brook Jones said...

I believe "nerd" was first coined by Dr. Seuss.

(ps. for the record, i'm a friend of our dear mr. pasivirta, who directed me to this blog)

Brook Jones said...

Yes, it's true -- wikipedia will back me up.

Dr. Seuss' "If I Ran the Zoo", c. 1950

Kai said...

Okay, I can’t rest until I have contributed my part to the philology of nerdology. After intense research which took me the major part between breakfast and lunch, I came up with the following derivatives of the word nerd. I don’t think that they are truly etymological in the Cathedral dweller’s or Phil’s sense, but I think they might be helpful for some of our nerds.


Latin, nerditore,
Church Latin, nerditarissime sanctificatoribus
Mittelhochdeutsch: Depperle, Tollpatscherle, Närdle (early ancient Swiss German, Nerdale or Nerdäderle)
Anglo-Saxon, Nerdor,
Early middle Hungarian, Nördör’gül
Late medium middle Viking, Nürderloki

Common derivatives of the original word-stem:
nerdology, the study of nerds
nerdus, common nerd
nerdatus, nerd’s date
nerditutionare, carrier of a nerditorous aura
nerditorous, of nerdishness (used to describe the tribal attributes of nerds)
Nerditerra, home-country of nerds
Nerdipolis, hometown of nerds
Nerditerranean, lake behind Nerdipolis
studinerdare, studying nerdy subjects
nerdalecturare, teaching nerdy subjects
obnerdisessity, to obsess about nerdy subjects
nerdy-nervousa, nervous twitch when outed as a nerd
camera nerdtusa, meeting room for nerds
camera obscura nertusa, meeting room for secret (not yet outed) nerds
havernerdasack, small stout bag to carry a nerd’s possessions (like pipes)
meganerdabit, a unit of data on a nerd’s computer
meganerdusa, mythical gorgon killed by Nerdaseus, lived in Nerdopia
Nerdopia, mythical netherworld in nerdomythology
Philonerdophy, love of nerds
Philanerdelphia, city in USA founded by immigrant nerds in 1834
Nerdophia, panic experienced by non-nerds when encountering nerds
Pronertheus, semi-god in ancient nerdomythology
Porkynerdus, scrumptuous pork dish from Nerditerra
Spanerdocopidos, wrapped spinach dish from Nerdopolis

Famous Nerds:
Christofer Colnerdus, discovered Nerdistan
Vasco da Nerda, discovered Cape Nerd and Rio de Janerdo
Nerdingstone, discovered Sir Henry Morton Nerdley
Ernest Nerdiway, famous author of depressing books
Prof. Dr. Einnerd, physicist, discovered the Theory of Nerdativity
Saint Nerdius the Unobtrusive, patron saint of nerds (Western Church)
Saint Thernerdiophrenios of the Wagon, patron saint of nerds (Eastern Church)

Famous Films:
The Silence of the Nerds
The Last Nerd
Chronicles of Nerdia

I hope this, my little contribution, to the subject was of help and I promise to never do this again… 

phil said...

Wow, Kai, that's impressive. I hope you realize you're walking a fine line here. After all, "Philology always leads to crime." (Eugène Ionesco, The Lesson (1951))

Speaking of philology...
Are you coming for my birthday?

Kai said...

Phil, I know, I know...! Philology my 18th love.

I would love to come for your Parteeeeee as Biss announced it, but have a prior engagement. But I have it from reliable sources that you will celebrate another one next year same time. THEN, I will come...

Kai said...

Cathedral dweller, is that you Mathew in Ottawa? If yes, would you email me your address? My wife still has the going-away-present for your wife (which Cheryl forgot at St. Herman's)in her (I assume) purse and would like to send it after you...

Kai said...

One addition to my etymology of nerdology sent just now to me by Fr. Wassiljy Wassiljevich Woodstakoff represents and early trace of the stem "nerd" in Church Slavonic. Here it is:

Church Slavonic,
Да изрд-царсыщ (da nerd-czarswljytsh)

biss said...

You're coming to Ottawa next January, Kai???
Bring your wife.

(For those who don't know yet, my birthday will be celebrated on June 18th. Mark your calandars now.)

thomasw said...

ah very well thought out kai...but if you want to impress me you'll have to use this noun in the form of a verb in the ablative case and make it have a haunting mood :)

i just giggle thinking of conjugating 'to nerd' in latin, sanskrit or greek. it is right up there with what happened to the English noun 'party' about a decade ago or so. Now even highly intelligent humans don't hesistate to use it as a verb. hehe

Kai said...

Thomas, would that be the middle English form of nerdatus (masculine) and nerdatita (feminine) derived from the Old French stem nerdoisette?
There would be another possibility that one could use the noun nerdatus and the concomittant agreeing pronoun "me nerdatus?" as a question.
A third possibility would be a relation to the melting or evaporation of the noun nerdatus which would indicate an immanent implonerdion (masc.) or implonerdission (fem).
To further investigate this, I would need however, either a live Swedish "njörd" or at least the neutered case of a common nerd confronted with a nerdatus eating a Spananerdacopitos (with spinach removed).
Let me know if you have one...