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I was talking about evolution with my friends and one of them said:

The word "evolution" joined the English vocabulary after Darwin used it. The word itself is pretty new, therefore.

Is that true or did the word have a very long origin before Darwin?

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-1 and voted to close as general reference. –  Hugo Nov 6 '11 at 8:51
As pointed out in the top answer to this question, Darwin was by no means the first to conceive of the concept of evolution, let alone the word. His own grandfather, for example, was pretty hot on the subject. –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 15:30
@barrycarter: Darwin actually uses the word evolution (and indeed, evolutionists) many times in On the origin of species –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 15:35
@FumbleFingers: Darwin use of evolution/evolutionists/evolved may depend on the edition of The Origin of Species. In the 1859 edition, I can only spot the last word. That had changed by 1872, presumably because Darwin was responding to public debate and its use by others. –  Henry Nov 6 '11 at 15:49
@Henry: I only skimmed thru the guttenburg copy, but it did rather look as if Darwin was responding to criticism, so 'you're probably right. And it is the "sixth edition", apparently - but it does say in the prologue 6th Edition is often considered the definitive edition. –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 20:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Use etymonline.com to look up evolution and you'll find that yes, "the word had a very long origin way before Darwin":

1620s, "an opening of what was rolled up," from L. evolutionem (nom. evolutio) "unrolling (of a book)," noun of action from evolvere (see evolve). Used in various senses in medicine, mathematics, and general use, including "growth to maturity and development of an individual living thing" (1660s). Modern use in biology, of species, first attested 1832 by Scottish geologist Charles Lyell. Charles Darwin used the word only once, in the closing paragraph of "The Origin of Species" (1859), and preferred descent with modification, in part because evolution already had been used in the 18c. homunculus theory of embryological development (first proposed under this name by Bonnet, 1762), in part because it carried a sense of "progress" not found in Darwin's idea. But Victorian belief in progress prevailed (along with brevity), and Herbert Spencer and other biologists popularized evolution.

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