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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Today's Etymology: Serendipity

What is the origin of the word ‘serendipity’?

The wonderfully onomatopoeic SERENDIPITY  means the making of happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.

It was invented by the writer and politicianHorace Walpole Horace Walpole in 1754 as an allusion to Serendip, an old name forSri Lanka.

 Walpole was a prolific letter writer, and he explained to one of his main correspondents that he had based the word on the title of a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, the heroes of which ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of ’.

Incidentally, the original Persian name for Sri Lanka (and in earlier times Ceylon) was Sarandib, a corruption of the Sanskrit Sinhaladvipa which literally meant ‘the island where lions dwell’. 

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