The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Collect’

posted in: Language 0

Image of a collection of leavesThe Hidden Power of Words series takes a look at the language origins of frequently used words across the subjects of organizing, time management and productivity.

There’s quite a lot of hidden history (and fascinating order) when it comes to the words we use in today’s day and age!

collect 1 |kəˈlekt|

verb [ with obj. ]

1 bring or gather together (things, typically when scattered or widespread)


Today’s Word: Collect

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “It took him eight hours to collect all the necessary information for his report; I think it will take him at least twice as long to write it!” “Do you collect any items as a hobby? As unoriginal as it may sound, I love collecting stamps from around the world.”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: Well, just by going off of the sound of the word, I’m going to guess ‘collect’ has origins in Middle English, Old German and Latin. Not that I have any real tangible reason to suspect these origins…it’s just more of a hunch. Let’s see, shall we?

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French collecter or medieval Latin collectare, from Latin collect- ‘gathered together,’ from the verb colligere, from col- ‘together’ + legere ‘choose or collect.’

Okay, well I wasn’t too far off in my guess, save for the Old French and German. The origin of ‘collect’ looks pretty straightforward enough, all those wonderful words related to gathering of items, togetherness and choice. I strongly suspect ‘together’ has origins in the two smaller word of ‘to’ and ‘gather.’ Let’s see what we can find…

ORIGIN Old English tōgædere, based on the preposition TO + a West Germanic word related to GATHER. The adjective dates from the 1960s.

Well I’ll be…there’s the German language influence after all! Now to the next part…what can we learn about the word ‘collect’ and how to think about it in our daily lives say when we are working on an organizing project?

The next time you are collecting information, data or things, take a moment to realize how conscious of an effort you are making (or not making) to bring things together. Sure, it’s easy to collect things, but to collect the things you meant to collect on purpose as opposed to just random items is another story. Truly, we should collect with care.

Now to you…were you surprised by the origins of the word, ‘collect’? Will you take pains to collect items with care and conscious effort? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

Note: Dictionary used for definitions and references is The New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.2.1 (143.1), Apple Inc., Copyright 2005-2011.

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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