Entertainment & Arts
Word and Phrase Origins

What is the origin of the word entertainment?

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2009-05-03 19:08:31
2009-05-03 19:08:31

Entertain comes from Medieval Latin intertenere"to hold inside", from inter- "inside" + tenere "to hold". The Indo-European root of tenere is ten- "to stretch". The change in meaning from "stretch" to "hold" presumably occurred as one has to "hold" something in order to "stretch" it. When the word entered English from French in the late 15th century, it meant "to maintain, to keep up". By Shakespeare's time, the word had acquired a meaning of "engage or keep the attention of a person": "I thinke the best way were, to entertaine him with hope" (from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1598). Sir Francis Bacon used the word in 1626 to mean "to amuse": "All this to entertain the Imagination that it waiver less". It is that meaning which seems to have stuck, though we also find the word used in such phrases as "I will entertain the suggestion of...", etc.; that usage arose in the early 17th century.

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