The Meaning Of Odyssey By Margot Gordon

The Meaning of Odyssey By Margot Gordon

In English there are often many words associated with one concept, each meaning something slightly different. There are few words in this language that encompass the entire meaning of a concept. Journey, voyage, and travel, to most people, all mean the same thing, while in actuality each word relates to a different aspect of a trip and only one word, odyssey sums up all of those words in one.

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The only way to realize this is to journey into the etymology of all four words. The word journey is defined as, an act or instance of traveling from one place to another (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). As the majority of words in the English language have a Latin root, journey, can be found to have one as well. First, journey comes from the old French word joune. Joune comes from the Latin word diurnum which means a days work or the amount of distance that can be traveled in a day.

Back in the days of Ancient Greece, a journey was a big undertaking due to the lack of quality of roads, the expense, and the fact that modern technology, such as planes, cars, good roads, and GPS, that make journeys easy today, simply did not exist. Voyage, like journey has its roots in old French and Latin. In old French voyage’s root is voiage which comes from the Latin world viaticum. In Latin viaticum means the provisions for a journey. Also found in the world viaticum is the Latin noun via which means road. Therefore, voyage really means the provisions one needed to take on a journey or trip, as well as the means by which they traveled. Voyage focuses on the necessities one needs for travel versus the comforts and emotions attached to the idea of travel. Today the word travel has positive connotations and is associated with pleasurable activities.

For example, one travels to their country house for a long weekend or travels across the country for a short trip. Travel in today’s world is for the most part easy and comfortable, a major improvement from what travel used to be like. It, therefore, makes sense that when the world travel was introduced to English that since it was not easy nor comfortable its roots suggest that association. Travel comes from the old French word travail which comes from the Latin world trepalium which means an instrument of torture. Torture is associated with pain, and pain with emotion, so roots of and the actual word travel are associated with the emotional part and the experience of a journey. There is one word in English that has a combined meaning of all three of the words. That word is odyssey. Odyssey has a Greek root, and drives from the Greek word Odyssia, the name of the famous epic poem by Homer. The word odyssey encompasses the meanings of journey, voyage, and travel in one word. One of the principal characters in the poem is named Odysseus and similar to how via (Latin for road) is found in the word viaticum the word odyn can be found in Odysseus. This word is similar to the world anodyne a compound of two different Greek words. The an means without, and the dyne means pain. This leads to the conclusion that Odysseus means the man of pain.

The journey is him trying to get home, his voyage is less successful due to the men and provisions he both gained and then lost, and his travel relates to the pain and suffering he endures while trying to return to his home, wife, son, and kingdom.

Works Cited

  1. “Q. How Do I Cite a Dictionary?” Walden University, academicanswers.waldenu.edu/ faq/73139
  2. Mendelsohn, Daniel. An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic. 2018. Merriam-Webster. www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/journey.
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