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The English word campaign comes from the French word campagne, which has two basic meanings:

  1. battle,
  2. countryside.

It seems that when this word came to English, only the "battle" meaning was kept (and later extended to political battles), while the "countryside" meaning somehow was lost.

Is there a term in linguistics to describe such behaviour? Is this common?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

British (and American) senior officers were mostly educated men fluent in French and tended to (out of snobbishness) use French military terms: enfilade, siege, cavalry (chivalry) , fusilier, dragoon, grenadier etc. etc. so Campaign was just in a long list of French military terms taken wholesale into English.

Farmers on the other hand who were less educated and closer to their Anglo/Saxon/Nordic heritage favored words with Germanic roots, field, cow, hen, meadow etc.. Pasture is about the only agricultural term I can think of that doesn't have Germanic roots.

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Campaign was used to mean ‘a tract of open country’ until at least the middle of the eighteenth century. The process by which a word widens its meaning can be described as ‘extension’ or ‘generalization’, although in the case of campaign the earlier meaning has been lost.

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