The word paradise today refers to utopia-like places or even feelings of bliss or happiness. These meanings are metaphorical extensions of the biblical meaning (the Garden of Eden). Since the Old Testament has been around for quite a while, it is therefore not surprising that paradise kept that biblical connotation the whole time as it came from French paradis, from Latin paradisus, and finally from Greek paradeisos. We're not exactly sure where this was from, but because the story about Eden originated in Semitic regions, the word hung around the Semitic languages, clinging to both Hebrew and Arabic as we trace further back to the Proto-Indo-Iranian term paradaiza. This is supposedly a portmanteau of pari- (meaning "around") and daiza (meaning "walls"). Thus a paradise was the original place with walls all around, the perfect enclosure. Pari may stem from Proto-Indo-European per, which carried a definition like "to go over", and daiza is possibly from dheygh, or "to form, knead, or shape". But we're not sure, because as paradise began to "go over" to Greek, it took many "forms"!
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.