This is one of those that I probably could have figured out if I ever happened to pause and think about it…but which I’d never paused to think of until I saw it in my son’s vocabulary book. 😉
So, we’re probably all familiar with the root of disaster. Namely, aster, the Latin word for “star.” We see this root in many words. Asterisk, astronomy, astrology, etc.
And of course, dis- as a prefix means “against.” So disaster is literally “against the stars.” This will either make a light bulb go on over your head or make you scratch said head, LOL. It’s pretty clear when you remember that in ancient days, the stars were considered to be guiding forces–or if not guiding, they made things clear. A star heralded the births of important men, for instance (Christ being the ultimate example of this). In many cases, it wasn’t that people thought the stars dictated what happened so much as that they explained what happened.
Regardless, disaster would mean that the stars were against you–which meant trouble and bad things would happen to you.
Even though most of us today don’t believe that, it’s still so interesting to realize that our vocabulary reflects those ancient beliefs!