Online Encyclopedia

SILLY

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 109 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SILLY, weakly foolish, stupid. This is the current sense of a word which has much changed its meaning. The O.E. sxlig (usually gescelig) meant prosperous, happy, and was formed from srel, time, season, hence happiness, cf. Icel. stela, bliss; Ger. selig, blessed, happy, &c., probably also allied to Lat. salvus, whole, safe. The development of meaning is happy, blessed, innocent or simple, thence helpless, weak, and so foolish. The old provincial and Scottish word for a caul (q.v.) was " silly-how," i.e. " lucky cap." The development of meaning of " simple," literally " onefold " (Lat. simplex), plain, artless, hence unlearned, foolish, is somewhat parallel. A special meaning of " simple," in the sense of medicinal herbs, is due to the supposition that each herb had its own particular or simple medicinal value.
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