The word school (“place of learning”), or scol in Old English, traces to the Latin word scola one way or the other. Closer to today, scola meant “school”, but as we go backward into the past, it meant something more like “discussion”, because that’s what they did in Roman schools. This word came from Ancient Greek skholeion, which meant “conversations”, but also changes in definition further back: to “knowledge gained during free time” from just “free time” or "leisure" (not what many people associate with school!). The changes here are understandable but nevertheless surprising; it’s even weirder when you consider that this all comes from Proto-Indo-European sghe, or “to possess”, which metaphorically evolved to its Greek definition. That’s all I got, but, incidentally, the word school as in school of fish has no etymological connection to the educational edifice. From Dutch skola, “swarm of animals”, it goes back to Proto-Indo-European skwel, “crowd”. Now you know.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd