Adventures in Etymology – Quiet 🤫

Today we’re looking into the origins of the word quiet.


Quiet [ˈkwaɪ.ɪt / ˈkwaɪ.ət] means:

  • making little or no noise or sound
  • free or comparatively free of noise
  • silent
  • restrained in speech or manner
  • free from disturbance or tumult; peaceful

It comes from the Middle English quiete (peace, rest, gentleness), from the Old French quiet(e) (tranquil, calm), from the Latin quiētus (at rest, quiet, peaceful), from quiēscō (I rest, sleep, repose), from quiēs (rest, repose, quiet) from the PIE *kʷyeh₁- (to rest; peace) [source].

English words from the same Latin root include acquiesce (to rest satisfied, to assent to), coy (bashful, shy, retiring), quit (to abandon, leave), requiem (a mass or piece of music to honour a dead person) and tranquil (calm, peaceful) [source].

The English word while comes from the same PIE root, via the Old English hwīl (while, period of time), the Proto-West Germanic *hwīlu (period of rest, pause, time, while), and the Proto-Germanic *hwīlō (time, while, pause) [source].

Other words from the same PIE root include wijl [ˈʋɛi̯l] (when, while), in Dutch, Weile [ˈvaɪ̯lə] (while), in German, hvile [ˈviːlə] (rest, repose, to rest) in Danish and Norwegian, chwila [ˈ] (moment, instant) in Polish and хвилина [xʋeˈɫɪnɐ] (minute) in Ukrainian [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

By the way, I wrote a new song this week called Quiet Please

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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One thought on “Adventures in Etymology – Quiet 🤫

  1. Simon,

    It is interesting that you would note quiet as being “free or comparatively free of noise”. It turns out, as much as people claim to want “peace and quiet”, there could actually be too much of a good thing.

    In modern times, scientists have made made places and devices that reduce sound to very low levels. An extreme example of these “anechoic” systems can be found here:

    Being affected by such devices can be disorienting, much like “sensory deprivation” chambers which affect more than sound. Reportedly, the experience is novel and fun for a short while, but eventually the mind simply craves sound. Evidently, you need to hear sounds on a regular basis to be mentally well-balanced. Perhaps a baby permanently kept in a chamber like that might not mind, but for us mere mortals, it just doesn’t work. The sound of a bird or the wind in the trees isn’t “noise”. We need it.

    But, ix-nay on the jackhammers or rock music at 130 decibels, ok? Somebody around here is trying to get some sleep :-))

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