The start of Advent seems like a great time to look at the history of a word that reminds Christians of Christ–our Lord and…you guessed it…KING!
King is obviously a word that’s been around forever and hasn’t varied much in meaning. But have you ever wondered where it came from? More, have you ever wondered if it had anything to do with kin, which looks so similar?
Short answer: it does!
Kin has meant “a family, a tribe, a race” since Old English days, and one of the main speculations (though it’s a bit uncertain) is that king is directly related, making it literally “leader of the people,” like what we’d today call a chief. It or its related words in other Germanic langauges has been applied to leaders of all sorts over the centuries–not just political figures or heads of state, but church leaders or the heads of particular fields as well.
The Three Kings, as in the Wise Men of the biblical story, has been used since around 1200. The chess piece came about around 1400 (did you know chess was that old?), the playing card around 1560, and finally, the piece in checkers/draughts in 1830.