The origin of the term society s
My linguistics teacher assigned to me the task of tracing the origin of the word 'society'. Could anyone please help me in discovering the etymology of this word please? Also, if there be any suggestions of sources I could look into about the various ways it is used, ie connotations, denotations etc. I would be greatly appreciative.
It's from the Latin for "companion," by way of French. See:, and there's more material there through the hyperlinks to "social" and some other, related words.
Lewis Joplin II
society - noun. 1531, companionship, fellowship; borrowed from Middle French 'societ,' and probably directly from Latin 'societas,' from 'socius' companion...The meaning of an organized group, club, association, is first recorded before 1548, and that of a system or condition of living with others as a community, in 1553. The sense of fashionable people or their doings is first recorded in 1823.

From "The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995). Page 735.

Lewis Joplin II
Life is full of coincidences. I was reading today about the origin of insurance in Italy and found a use of the word "societas."

"Some outstanding Florentine families made history in their commercial practices in the fourteenth century...Originally confined to the members of a family, partnerships tended to embrace business connections outside, but control rested with the dominant family which founded the 'societas.'...As the medieval source of much of modern commercial practice the Italian business house or 'societas' is deserving of some close study. It was not originally a joint-stock concern but a rather wide partnership based on the family of the founder or founders, a continuing association of equal partners each responsible for the partnership contracts. Besides the word 'societas' the word 'compagnia' was used and, in formulae of partnership, phrases such as 'men who eat our bread' (com-panis) were found.1 (Footnote 1: W.J. Ashley, "Economic History and Theory, 1912, Part II, p. 415)." From A History of British Insurance, by Harold E. Raynes (Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, LTD, 1948). Pages 1-3.

I should make explicit something given in those links to the dictionary above, that even prior to "companion," the Latin origin is sequi, meaning "to follow," also giving English "sequence," et al. So, one who follows is like a companion which forms the basis of social relationships.

Bringing it more modern, "society" did use to mean, essentially, "high society," and the broad, democratic sense is more recent.

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