Alternative Routes to a Common Destination
School is derived from the Latin word schola, which can be translated as leisure. The eventual root of the word is the Greek skhole which translates – lazy students might be happy to learn – more or less, as idleness.
It is tempting to presume a direct link between school; meaning a gathering of students, and school; meaning a gathering of fish. But such a presumption would be misguided. School (of fish) is an entirely different word with a Germanic root; skulo, meaning multitude, or perhaps troop.
The development of a language is generally assumed to be divergent; the number of words in a language tends to increase over time. A single word accrues additional new meanings throughout its life, and related languages become more distinct from one another as they develop. However,school is an example of the opposite occurring.
In this case, two distinct word roots have led to two identical spellings and two homophonous sounds. So, while we might assume that school (teacher) and school (of fish) are the same word, they are not.
Two paths from disparate origins appear to converge. But while the end points of the paths coincide precisely, they are, in fact, distinct.
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