Reinhold Leitner

How books became called books

Language is often something taken for granted by those who use it every day, but it can be interesting to trace down the origin of some words. Books are all around, and plenty of modern people find their contents quite interesting. For those who are willing to take a few minutes to stroll through history, the reason books are called books can help redefine and enlighten those looking for just a bit more information on these wonderful tomes.

Defining a Book

Even in its newer electronic form, a book is still a book. The definition is still applicable because even electronic books are tomes that contain written text, pictures or illustrations, and they are portable. Far into the past of the English language this was how a book was defined, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe even modern electronics have changed it.

Earliest Known References

The English language has long been one where words from many different cultures and their languages have been added, and there are plenty of references to the origin of book. The Oxford English Dictionary is just one where the word boc was translated from its original form into book, and its definition fits the word still in use today. There are also references from around the same time to the similar references used in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and even Germany with just slightly different spellings.

The Eighth Century

King Alfred was a scholarly man who chose to translate a book written in Latin, and his use of English was another part of the historical record concerning the word book. While Pope Gregory I, whose book he was translating was an important writer in his day, King Alfred referenced the same boc as part of his translation. Versions of the Bible being spread at that time also used boc as a familiar way to identify them as books of the Bible.

Language Evolution

While King Alfred was apparently well-spoken and written during his time, languages in everyday use tend to change over time. Just a few centuries after his work, language evolution had begun to change boc into boke or bokes for the plural. It is just one of the common ways languages turn into what people speak in the modern world, but the meaning of the word still referred to a tome that contained illustrations and text in a form that could travel.

The Sixteenth Century

The language spoken as English today had many transformations over the centuries, but it was still recognizable to many from the past and future in the sixteenth century. For those looking at a history of the word book and its evolution, it was often referred to as boke at the beginning of this particular time. Over the next hundred years, it would eventually turn into booke as the language expanded and morphed toward the one in use today.

The modern usage of English is familiar, but there are enough similarities throughout history to help make it understandable how a word can change while its definition remains the same. While people today might never consider using a boc or boke, they still tend to look forward to sitting down with a good book.