The main objective of this essay is to analyze an extended definition of the word “kindness”. The word “kindness” is a noun, which, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, is 1250-1300 years old. The word was first used approximately in the 900s. It has derived from the word “kind” with the reference to “noble deeds, courtesy” and created with the help of an adjective “kind” and a suffix “-ness”. There are different meanings of the word “kindness” and some of them originate from the late 14th century and stand for “kind feelings, kind deeds”. If to be more specific, it was spelled in Old English as “kyndnes” and meant “produce, an increase, nation” (Harper n.pag.).
There is a big variety of explanations of the word “kindness” as well as its synonyms and antonyms. Among the most-commonly used examples of synonyms are “affection”, “beneficence”, “cordiality”, “decency”, “fellow feeling”, “gentleness”, “good intention”, “grace”, “helpfulness”, “humanity”, “patience”, “sweetness”, “tenderness”, “tolerance”, “understanding”, etc. The most common antonyms are “meanness”, “cruelty”, “harshness”, “cruelty”, “inhumanity”, and “malevolence” (“Kindness” n.pag.).
Therefore, “kindness” is a noun that has the following meanings:
- generosity, compassion;
- the state or quality of being kind;
- an example of kind behavior;
- quality of practice of being good;
- a considerate, kind or helpful act, etc.
According to the thesaurus, kindness is a quality of being considerate, humane, warmhearted and sympathetic. This is also a tendency of being forgiving and kind, or a kind act in general (Thefreedictionary.com n.pag.). It is obvious that most of the meanings are connected with an adjective “kind”; that is why it is logically to explain its origin. The word “kind” refers to “friendly, purposely doing good things to others”.
Nowadays, if somebody uses the word “birth”, “origin” or “property” one usually means something specific. However, long time ago, when the languages of different peoples had only started their development, one word could have meant the whole phrases or even sentences. Talking about the origin of the word “kin”, it was first spelled as “gakundi”, or “gecynde”. The word “kind” was used from the end of the ninth century as a noun or adjective with different meanings and in different phrases and sentences. Nowadays, it is not used in such a way anymore. During the last 1,300 years, the word “kind” has somehow lost most of its meanings. Many of them were in some way connected with the origin of a thing or a person. For example, the word “kind” was used to indicate the goods belonging to someone by birth, gender, natural state, character or family (Simpson & Weiner 436). With time, the majority of those definitions became obsolete and was never used anymore. However, during the last two hundreds of years, the meanings of this word were commonly used and understandable by all English-speaking people. Actually, what is good is that the original definitions were not erased or lost; on the contrary, they emerged and integrated with the modern understanding of the word.
While further analyzing the word “kind”, it was found out that it originated from the word “kin”. If to look at Old English again, there are some examples of how the word was spelled before. Depending on a gender and number, it could have been written as “cynne”, “cynnes”, and “cynna”. Later, the word was turned into “kynne”, “kunne”, “kyn” and eventually, “kin” (Simpson & Weiner 434). There is no enough information about the usage of the first letter of the word. However, it is known that approximately in 897s, the word was written with “k” (“kynn”); in the 1000s, it modified to “c” (“cyn”) (434). An interesting fact is that in southern England, the word “kin” derives from the word “cow” and, if to be more specific, from its plural form. Actually, the word “kin” was replaced by “kind” and meant “goods belonging to one by birth” (435). After this, people started to use the word as they wanted. There is clear evidence in literature that it had at least five different meanings, which had something common with the things acquired with birth. It varied depending on the contexts, but “gecynd” was used to define the “property belonging to one by birth, something acquired with/after birth”, a natural property, characteristic or quality, or race of a plant or animal (Simpson & Weiner 436).
In the course of time, many new definitions of this word appeared; however, its initial meaning remains the same for more than thousand years. During some periods of history, the word was even used with a negative connotation. There are some assumptions that in 2080 thesaurus the word “kind” will be presented as a synonym to the word “conniving”. Another sources mention that this is one of the oldest words in the English language, which originally meant “nature”. For example, in 1000, the word “kind” was used to connote “the proper or natural way to anyone”; this meaning derives from the definition used in 888 that meant “the quality or character required from birth” (Simpson & Weiner, 436). To show the mentioned correlations, it is good to provide an example: if someone uses such phrase as “that was very kind of you”, it actually means, “you treat me like we were born within the same family”.
With time, the suffix “–ness” was added to the word, creating a noun. However, it actually has the same meaning and the same old history.
To my mind, the word “kindness” is one of the most beautiful words that should be not only used in literature, but also applied in everyday life. People have to show their kindness towards the close ones, friends and even strangers, which is one of the best things in life. Unfortunately, people do not always remember kindnesses expressed by others towards them.
- Harper, D. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2012. E-dictionary. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
- “Kindness”. Tesaurus.com. 2013. Web. 1 May 2013.
- Simpson, J.A. & E.S.C. Weiner. The Oxford English Dictionary. Second Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
- Thefreedictionary.com. Farlex, Inc., 2013. Web. 1 May 2013.