Some kid in my history class asked me yesterday what the etymology of pastoral was, in the context of "nomads". I didn't answer because this plunged me into thought: was pastoral etymologically connected to a pastor (as in minister)? Turns out that it is, and in an unexpected manner. The word pastor came from its French ancestor pastor, which meant "shepherd". This changed to a religious connotation because a pastor is a "shepherd of souls" and shepherds the masses towards salvation. Though the etymological connection is already clear, the French pastor traces back to the Latin pastor, which had the same definition. Let's look back to pastoral for a second. Though it now means "of agriculture and husbandry", or indeed, "of nomadic people", it used to mean "of shepherds", and through French and a conjugated Latin word (pastoralis) also traces back to the Latin word pastor. This word came from pascere, which meant "to lead", since shepherds obviously lead the flock. And since a leader is supposed to protect his people (sorry, whatever half of America is not in power), this came from the Proto-Indo-European word for "protect", peh. Next time somebody mentions a Ministry of Agriculture, laugh at the irony.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-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 College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd