Trivia is always a fun thing to enjoy, especially in high school quiz bowls. The word has an interesting origin, albeit trivial. It first can be traced back to Latin, and the word trivium, or "a place that three roads meet", from tri- "three" and via "road". Intersections were places where people met each other, and many people did indeed congrgate at triviums. However, Roman patricians and snobbish types looked at these common, filthy people all in one place, and turned the word into a pejorative adjective: trivialis, meaning "vulgar and commonplace". This word then got adopted by the English language in the late sixteenth century. The equally snobby English kept the "insignificant" part, but somehow lost "vulgar" and made it apply to educational matters. Ergo, the new word of trivial meant "knowledge that is unimportant". Note I wrote trivial: trivia was only begun to be used in the 1930s, and it referred to "tiny bits of insignificant knowledge", not just "insignificant knowledge" in general. Just a fun bit of three roads for you etymology fans out there!
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