Truth (n.) - What's True About Truth?
Something that is faithful to fact, reality, or the circumstances of a particular situation or story.
History & Etymology
The word truth is truly an English word. It’s been in the lexicon since the proto-germanic roots of English. When we reach all the way back to Proto-Indo-European, the reconstructed ancestor of the majority of European languages, we find a root word that I’ve covered in one of my earliest videos. The word deru- in PIE meant “be firm, solid, steadfast," as we discovered in that earlier video is the origin of the word tree.
In Germanic the word became something like treuwitho which indicated something having or being characterized by good faith.
When Germanic had morphed into Old English the word was triewð which mean faith, faithfulness, and loyalty. Around this time there is some evidence that truth was already being used in its modern meaning, but that was infrequent. The most dominant word that had the same meaning was sooth. Around the 14th century the word sooth became associated with “soothsayers” or fortune tellers, and fell out as a word used to describe what was real.
Another way to explore what a word meant to the people using it is to see how it’s used when it’s translating a word from another language. I thought I would take a look at the most influential document in western history, the Bible.
In the New Testament the Greek word translated as truth is Αληθεια(Alêtheia) a feminine noun which meant “unconcealed, revealed, or reality.” Alêtheia was also the name of a goddess, and what I found most interesting about the use of her name is that she has two different origin stories. In one she is the daughter of Zeus completely devine and the other is from Aesop's Fables where she is the creation of Prometheus, the man who stole fire from the gods. This story from Aesop’s Fables immediately reminded me of Jordan Peterson and his explanation of the importance of the Biblical stories. Is there truth without man? Does truth exist without a mind to separate it from what’s false.
And breaking down the Greek word into its parts makes this comparison even more interesting. Lethe in greek meant to forget and by putting an A in front of that it negates it just as it does in the word atheist. So the word translated as truth in the most influential document in western civilization literally means that which is not forgotten.
Something to think about.