What is Sound…the etymology

The English language is rich with descriptive words that allow us to convey meaning “Sound” is one word that is used is  many different ways, it is a homograph which in English, means a word with one or more meanings and origins. Let’s take a closer look at how many different ways we use the word:

Merriam Webster Dictionary States :

Sound as in something heard descends from the Latin word Sonus (sound)

Sound that measures the depth of water traces to Old French sonde (sounding line)

other traces for the sound include , “gisund” (Old Saxon for sound)

Old Frisian “sund” (fresh, unharmed, healthy)

Gothic “swinths” (“sound” or “healthy”)

Old German “Gisunt (healthy)

Modern German “gesund” (the root of gesundheit)


  • We define sound as Vibration that travels through the air or another medium and can be heard when they a person or animal’s ear. (“Does light or sound vibrate faster?)
  • We use it to define distance, “I was within the sound of my daddy’s whistle at all time,”or “I was always within the sound of mama’s voice
  • an audible division of time “The bell sounds at midnight”
  • We use it to ascertain the depth of water, Sound depth of water”
  • and group periods of time together “Sounds of the Eighties”
  • We use it to discern one vibration from anotherSound as opposed to Noise”
  • We use it to describe Music: “I like the Sound of that rhythm or beat, or harmony
  • To describe places where music and sound are recorded “Sound Studio,” “Sound Stage”
  • to describe the distinctive quality of a particular artist or band. “I recognized Led Zeppelins sound immediately”
  • to describe the timbre of an instrument, “the sound of the bagpipes is distinctive
  • to describe a distinct quality to the timbre of someone’s voice “The sound of his voice was disconcerting
  • to describe the effects used to accompany a film or video production as in Sound effects, or Sound Design
  • We use it to describe the absence of sound itself: “The sound of Silence,” “He didn’t make a sound”
  • We use it to describe the idea behind the words, or impressions conveyed by the words. “you’ve had a hard day from the sound of it” or “I like the sound of that”
  • to describe the action of emitting or causing sound, “Sound the alarm”
  • or to prompt others to speakSound off”
  • to express or convey an impression, the feelings beyond the words, “He Sounded worried” “it sounds as though you do believe it” “It sounds like you are hurt” “It sounds like a crazy idea”
  • to describe good reason, sense or judgement (Sound plan, sound judgement, sound design, sound advice)
  • to describe security beyond safety, “safe and sound” or we use it to describe something in good condition  as in not damaged or injured or “the equipment arrived safe and sound”
  • to describe financial security, “Financially sound
  • to describe a healthy bodysound body”
  • and a healthy mind, “Sound mind”
  • or a good night sleep “a sound sleep”
  • and to describe the person who is able to sleep without distraction by sound “A sound sleeper”
  • or to describe sleeping without disturbance, “I slept soundly”
  • and to describe one who is sleeping so well, it as if they are somewhere else entirely, “Sound asleep”
  • to describe seeking another’s opinion or feeling; “sound it out with your customers ” Sound out our representatives first”
  • to describe and actually perform the acts of inquiring/investigating, probing, researching examining, testing and analyzing the opinions of others: “Officials arrived to sound out public opinion on the new policy”
  • to describe a long, surgical probe with a curved, blunt end. “pass me the sound”
  • to define a narrow stretch of water forming an inlet or connecting two wider areas of water such as two seas or a sea and a lake. “Puget Sound”

This world alone, in the language gives us so many seaming unrelated meanings and by calling it a homograph, essentially, we attribute it to the mixing pot we call the United States, and keep the various meanings locked away in their individual root-word.

But, are the meanings all so vastly different?

For your quick consideration, take a look at the list above? Do you notice any trends?

Now, Single out the bold-faced letters. Anything coming into clarity yet?

Sound is the vibration of communication. We use it to convey emotion, to punctuate feelings, to connect with other humans, to convey our inner thoughts, feelings and emotions. Sound is the energy we convey with our voices. This may not be a scientific definition of sound, but it could be assumed when reading the clues in our language and culture.

My native language calls this word a homograph – A seemingly unrelated melting pot of words with originally different etymologies coming together to mean several different, unrelated things. But, several ancient cultures would argue they are all related.

Through research into literature, mythology, ethno-musicology, history, philosophy and religion (Collectivity: The Humanities)I hope to paint for you a different picture. my hope is to show you through the humanties; what ancient cultures have understood all along. Sound Connects us, it helps us to communicate, not only with each other, but with nature and the great universe at large. After we examine this a little closer, we come to find the spirituality of sound. This is where Sonic Catharsis begins, at the convergence of Science, Humanities and Spirituality.

Each definition of sound leaves us a clue. I hope I have appealed to your humanity, please join me as we investigate science and spirituality through the art of sound.

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