I don’t often pause to examine the etymology of words like “handsome,” which have meant what they mean for centuries, and so I can use freely in all my manuscripts.
But once in a while, it’s fun to see how it came to mean what we know all those hundreds of years ago. =) “Handsome” is a good example. When we break it down, it’s “hand” and “some.” Now how in the world did that come to mean “good looking”??
Well, first it meant “ready at hand or easy to handle” in the 1400s. Literally hand + some. By the mid/late 1500s the meaning had been extended to mean “considerable, of fair size.” And then within ten years, that became “of fine form,” which easily becomes “good-looking.” Then it extended further to mean “generous” (i.e. a handsome reward) a hundred years after that, in 1680.
Fun, eh? Who knew?
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