A Constitutional Catastrophe: The Meanings and Origins of Catastrophe

Literature / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
A look at the evolution of the use of the word “catastrophe” since the 16th century.

This paper was written for an English class in which we had to research the meaning and the origin of an English word.
“It was not until 1579 that catastrophe first appeared in written English. British poet Edmund Spenser[1] in his poem entitled “The shepheardes calendar” first used catastrophe in the sentence “this tale is much like to that in Aesops fables, but the catastrophe and ende is farre different.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first meaning of the word catastrophe in English, as used in the quote from Spender’s poem, was `The change or revolution which produces the conclusion or final event of a dramatic piece.` Over time the word catastrophe grew in usage, but while there were slight changes in its meaning, the word still has the same meaning today as back in 1579.”


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