The Etymology of Happiness

23 10 2007

I forgot to mention one of the most interesting parts of last night’s lecture, which was the etymology of the word ‘happy’. I’ve come to think of happiness as something I can choose and strive for, a goal to be accomplished. However, the first known written use of the word was actually the root ‘hap’, which indicated chance or fortune. By 1390 it was used to mean ‘very glad’ and by 1540 the word ‘happiness’ was in use, though it still indicated luck or good fortune. As a matter of fact, many of the European words for ‘happy’ first meant ‘lucky’.

That makes me rethink my notion of happiness. Since the pursuit of happiness so often ends in disappointment, maybe it can only be found in recognition and appreciation of ‘happenstance’ (first seen used in 1897, formed from happening + circumstance) or ‘haphazard’ good fortune. So, is happiness really just dumb luck?

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One response

17 05 2009
Sophia

Could be it means being favored by Hapy/Hapi (God/divine) 😉

S

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