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A Kind of History

When someone uses the word "origin," "property," or "birth," they are referring to something specifically, but many years ago one word could have meant any or all of these things. With origins from the word "kin," initially spelled gecynde, or gakundi, the word "kind" has been used in written texts as a noun or adjective in some variation or spelling since around the end of the ninth century (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. 436). Over the last 1,200 years, the word "kind" has lost many of its meanings; though all of its meanings have had something to do with either the origins of a person or thing. For example, "kind" could have been used to mean the property belonging to someone by birth, a person's character, gender, family, or natural state (436). Most of these definitions have not been used for the last few hundred years, and only in the last two hundred years have the original meanings become the few we know today. The initial definitions have not been lost or erased, but only integrated with the contemporary usage of the word.

A brief history of the word "kin" must be explained before the history of "kind" because "kind" originates from "kin." In Old English, the genitive form of "kin" could have been written cynnes, cynne, and cynna depending on number and gender, but later became kunne, kynne, kyn, and kin (OED 434). Whether or not the word was spelled starting with a "c" or a "k" seems to have been arbitrary because as early as 897 the word was spelled "kynn," but then in 1000 spelled "cyn" (434). It is also interesting to note that specifically in southern England, the word "kin" comes from the plural form of the word "cow," which in Old English was written "kýn" (1080). In a sense, this definition is retained when "kin" becomes "kind," except that instead of specifically meaning "cows," it means "property belonging to one by birth." "Kin" and "kind" were apparently interchangeable until the form of the word "kynne" was reduced with the help of the borrowed Old French word "manere," which meant "manner." Manere did not directly affect the word kin, but promoted the use of "kind" (435):

"The reduction of kin to its simple uninflected form may have been assisted by the equivalent use of menere (manner) from OFr.. which is thus found, as threo maer men = men of three kinds or sorts. In this, at an early period, we find of inserted: an manere of fisce, al maner o suet spices, the syntactical relation between the words being thus reversed, and although this appears to have rarely extended to kin itself, it affected its later representative kind… so that we now say 'all kinds of things'" (OED, 435)

After "kind" replaced "kin," it did not take long for people to use "kind" in any way they could. This is evident in the fact that by the end of the ninth century, when looking at five different texts, "kind" is used in five different ways. All five definitions, though sometimes abstractly, had to do with things acquired by birth. Depending on the context, the word "gecynd(e)" could be used to mean property belonging to one by birth, the quality of someone derived from birth, the established order of things, "a natural quality, property or characteristic," or race of an animal or plant (OED 436). The connection between these definitions and "kin" is apparent because family is something that "belongs" to one by birth. The quality of a person is derived from the influence of their family, and a family is an "established order" of people. The species to which someone, or thing belongs is in a sense their family, or kind.

If one were to say in the twelfth century, "that is not my kind," depending on the context, it might be difficult to understand exactly what the speaker meant. Probably for this reason people started modifying the word "kind." "1200: Hie giuen here elmesse noht for godes luue, ac for neheboredon oðer for kinraden" (OED 441). Instead of saying, "the kind of man," or, "the family kind," "kind" was compounded as either a prefix or suffix to form words such as "kindness," "kindom," "kindred," and "mankind." Similar to the uses of "kin" and "kind," which both meant "family," before "mankind" was "mankin;" though "mankind" superseded "mankin" gradually in the fourteenth century (441). The use of the word "kind" as a prefix in "kindred" may have formed in parallel to the word "kynde," but "the modern kindred, which first became common in the 17th century, appears to have arisen through [the] phonetic development of d between n and r, as in thunder" (441).

In roughly the next century, given the fluid nature of the word the word, "kind" gained many new meanings, though a few of them seem to be specifications of the old ones. For example, during the year 1000 the word "kind" was used to mean "the way natural or proper to anyone," which probably comes from the definition used in 888: "the character or quality derived from birth"[1] (OED, 436). It is also important to note that the words "birth, origin and descent" were meant by "kind" because this lead the way to many things having to do with birth. In 1000, "kind" was used to mean birth, natural form or condition, gender, manner, offspring or kindred, a class of people or objects, and rarely sexual organs (437). After "kind" was used for "family," more definitions concerning the family were made. In the 1400's, "kind" could be used to mean family, descent, ancestral race from which one descends, a generation (rarely), type, in order or good condition, and out of order, or bad condition. The definition concerning good, or bad follows a logical path because for one to be treated as though they are "in the family" is "in kind" and "outside of the family," or "out of kind."; as an example, from Lanfranc's Cirurg in 1400, "Of a wounde bollid and out of kynde" (436). By 1500, certain usages appear to have been condensed, or fell out of use altogether. In written texts at least, "kind" stopped being used to refer to someone's sexual organs, their generation, their natural state or quality, and their genealogy. From 1600 onward, "kind" has kept its current meaning, except for a strange usage in the mid 1800's until the very early 1900's, where it was used to mean "the worst kind, or very badly;" however, this usage is only limited colloquially to the United States (437). As an example from an 1877 text, "I licked him the worst kind" (437). As can be seen by the end of the nineteenth century, people are no longer spelling the word "gecynde."

By looking at bits of text containing variations of the word "kind" over the last 1,200 years, it is clear that the changes in spelling took place gradually. The spellings "gecynde" and "gecynd" were consistently used in Old English until around the twelfth century when the "ge" was dropped and the word was spelled icunde, ikunde, cynd, cunde, suinde, kuinde, kynde, kunde, kende, kynd, kinde, and kind (OED, 436). The cy spelling is used less frequently from the eleventh century until the thirteenth century, where it is not used at all. Instead, "cy" was replaced with "cu", or "icu", as in the words "cund, cunde, or icunde." Any variation of the word with the first letter as "c" stops by the fourteenth century. The current spelling of the word "kind" appears as early as 1300, though it is not consistent because the "e," or "es" ending does not go away until the late sixteenth century. The "y" in "kynd" falls out of usage somewhere in the early 1600's and from that point on, the word has been spelled "kind."

With a few exceptions, the word "kind" has generally meant the same thing for well over a thousand years, and the definitions which did not fit the trend fell out of use. When someone says, "that was very kind of you," what they mean is, "you are treating me like we were born of the same family." However, as in the 1800s where "kind" was used in a negative connotation, perhaps "kind" will undergo pejoration, which is a semantic change from a positive usage to a negative. In a thesaurus from the year 2080, "conniving" might be synonymous with "kind."

Works Cited

"Cow." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Page 1080. Print

"Kin." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Pages 434-435. Print

"Kind." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Pages 436-438. Print

"Kindred." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Pages 441-442. Print

"Mankind." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Page 321. Print


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Kinder, a word for kindling, to start a fire. Garden, a bunch of kids your government gets to burn through taxes and whatnot. They teach kids, "there are two things in this world, death, and taxes. Children are the fuel that stokes the fire to ensure the rich stay that way, (kindling) and fire, because if a kindergartener says "that doesn't seem right" it starts a fire, next thing you know, your kid is in prison for being an American. The government IS the mafia, a true patriot would stop what they do so our economy would grow!

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Q: The word kindergarten originates from
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Where does Kindergarten orginate from?

Kindergarten originates from Germany.

Does kindergarten originate from America?

well actually I've been told on this website that actually the word originates from old German but i thought it came from America because they say kindergarten in America

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The word kindergarten is a singular noun. The plural form is kindergartens.

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My nephew is in kindergarten. The kindergarten area is brightly lit.

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Kindergarten came from Germany and in the United States, German immigrants in Wisconsin started the custom here.

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Kindergarten (noun) = gan yeladim (גן ילדים)

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SCHOOL FOR children

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