The Hidden Power Of Words: “Organize”

posted in: Language 0

or·gan·ize |ˈôrgəˌnīz|
verb [ trans. ] 1 arrange into a structured whole; order


Etymology is the study of word usage and origins. It’s also a little hobby of mine. Once in a while, when a word interests me, I’ll head to the dictionary to look it up. I think it is fun to look up origins because you really get to the essence and definition of a word. It is truly where both form and function meet.

For today’s blog entry, I thought I might give you some food for thought by sharing with you the origins of the word ‘organize.’ Any ideas before we begin? I hadn’t a clue as to how this word originated before I looked it up, yet was pleasantly surprised when I did.

Here’s the origin note for ‘organize’ from my computer’s dictionary:

ORIGIN late Middle English: from medieval Latin organizare, from Latin organum ‘instrument,tool’ (see organ).   

Obviously we can’t just stop there. We also have to look at the note for ‘organ’ to complete the picture:

ORIGIN late Old English, via Latin from Greek organon ‘tool, instrument, sense organ,’ reinforced in Middle English by Old French organe.

Hmm, how about that! ‘Organize’ has roots from words meaning instrument or tool. For me, it makes sense to think of the process of organization as a tool. Just as a hammer is used to drive a nail into a piece of wood, or a wrench to tighten a nut around a bolt, we use the tool of organization to help us achieve not only our to-dos, tasks and projects, but our goals and dreams as well.

Organization is more than a simple tool. If anything, it’s the ultimate tool. Organization can be used for large or small projects, at home, work or at play, on a few items or many. Of course the ways in which you can organize something are plentiful as well, from size, shape and function, just to name a few.

Do you think of organizing as a tool in and of itself? Or do you think of it only as something that you have to do to (i.e. organize) your belongings?

Note: Dictionary used for definitions and references is The New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.1.3 (80.4), Apple Inc., Copyright 2005-2009.

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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.