In Middle English, the word welcome went through many alterations, taking unrecognizable forms such as wolcume, wulcume, wilcume, and wilcuma. All, however, carried the same definition and all trace to the Old English term wilcuma, a noun literally meaning "one who arrives at the pleasure of another". This is a combination of willa, or "pleasure", and cuman, or "to come" (yes, the word come comes from this, through a couple more similar spellings in Middle English as well). Willa, through Proto-Germanic wiljana, goes back to Proto-Indo-European welh, or "to wish". Another interesting part of willa is that while it is related to our word well, it's closer so to will, and the modern modification that looks like well in welcome is actually an instance of folk etymology; people thought that that was supposed to be the correct spelling, and changed it to be so. Instead of hoping someone comes well, the word wills them to come, but that's largely forgotten today. Meanwhile, cuman, through Proto-Germanic kwemana, traces to PIE gwem, which meant "to step". You can see the "traveling" semantic connection. So, welcome etymologically means "wish step", because it bids people to come forward. So how did this get adopted in you're welcome? When you reply with that nicety, instead of inviting them to come, the meaning shifted to inviting them to ask for such a favor again. Today we don't even consider it. Well, we'll come around.
11/25/2021 11:09:00 am
I appreciate this website. The pairing of words and phrases interests me. I was ruminating over thanks(giving) and its greek counterpart ‘euchariteo’ which made me think of the Church act of the Eucharistic communion and its community building aspect. Welcome as the other’s (the Church’s) will, nay desire, pleasure of your travel or coming seemed appropriate. I’m curious what you know about the origin of the pairing.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.