Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I know several English words with "work" word as a second part: network, clockwork. Maybe someone can give more examples. They have some meanings in common - they are close to "machinery" or "system", but apart from that they seem very different. What were the historical reasons for producing such words?

share|improve this question
2  
There's Hamlet's What a piece of work is man, and my personal favourite wrought iron, using the archaic past tense that most of us don't even connect with the verb to work. –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 16:48

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The core sense of work is 'anything that's done'. It's not surprising, therefore, that it has many meanings, including those in the words you mention. It's first recorded in the tenth century, and its origins go back much further. It can combine with many other words other in front of or after it. They are too numerous to mention here.

share|improve this answer
1  
Guessing from my own mother tongue, the "work" in network seems to describe something, someone has put considerable effort into. Imagine how much effort is needed to build a clock, all the little pieces that need to be put into place and so on. –  Raku Dec 16 '11 at 11:50
1  
@Raku: The creation of a network may well have required a great deal of effort, but the 'work' element describes the product rather than the process. However, in a word such as 'housework' labour is very much of the essence. –  Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 11:57

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.