The Meaning of "Human"

adj. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of man

History: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) offers the earliest instance of human in written English as being from 1398. That reference attributed the origin of human nature to God. At that time, the word was spelled humayne. It appeared as humain less than a century later and was finally standardized as the familiar human by the eighteenth century. The dictionary offers three additional definitions that appeared over the centuries. By the late fifteenth century, English speakers used human to mean "of the nature of man; that is a man; consisting of men." Examples from the sixteenth century indicate that writers used it to mean "belonging or...


is a retired secondary teacher of English and philosophy. For forty years he challenged students to dive deep into the classics of the Western canon, to think and write analytically, and to find the cultural constants reflected throughout that literature, art, and thought.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #59, Winter 2021 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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