Technology – Podictionary Word of the Day
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For a while there, couple of decades ago, it was pretty common to hear people talking about “the state of the art” and meaning leading-edge advanced technology.
This really was a fitting phrase since the word technology in most dictionary definitions harkens back to art.
Technology evolved from an originally Greek word technologia, but got imported into English back in 1615.
Now, and even back to the original Greek, technology has been a careful, thoughtful, systematic approach to doing something; a technique.
Technique as a word came from the same source but came to English a little later through French.
The first part of the word, techn actually did mean “art” or “craft” from Greek, while the second half logy means more literally “the writings on” or “the accumulated knowledge about.”
This construct means that technology could be figuratively translated to mean “the field of knowledge about the art.”
The American Heritage Dictionary takes the techn root back beyond Greek to Indo-European teks meaning to weave, linking it to the root of the word textile.
These days the art in question is more likely to be developing the next generation of handheld devices, or the art of decoding DNA sequences, as opposed to weaving skills.
But when technology first arose as a word back in Greek, the arts then being systematically organized were things like grammar.
Five days a week Charles Hodgson produces Podictionary – the podcast for word lovers, Thursday episodes here at OUPblog. He’s also the author of several books including his latest History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle.