Desire has a surprisingly poignant etymology for such a simple-seeming word. Borrowed in the 1200s from the Old French verb desirrer (meaning "to wish for"), it can be traced to the Latin word desiderare, which could mean "demand" or "express" but had a much prettier literal meaning: "to await what the stars will bring". Obviously, this etymology is heavily steeped in astrology and the Romans' beliefs that the heavens influenced all the happenings on Earth. More than wishing for something, they wished that the heavens would give them something. Anyway, desiderare is composed of two parts: the prefix de-, meaning "of" or "from", and sidus, meaning "star" or "constellation". De- just comes from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning "of" and sounding about the same, and sidus, most likely through Proto-Italic, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction sweyd, meaning "sweat". It appears that desire to use the word desire has decreased throughout the ages: it was far more prevalent in seventeenth century English than today.
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