Origin of the term “step-child”

Is the word “Step” in relation to families a “…rose by any other name…?”

Step-
Old English. steop-, with connotations of “loss,” in combinations like steopcild “orphan,” related to astiepan, bestiepan “to bereave, to deprive of parents or children,” from P.Gmc. *steupa- “bereft” (cf. O.Fris. stiap-, O.N. stjup-, Swed. styv-, M.L.G. stef-, Du. stief-, O.H.G. stiof-, Ger. stief-), lit. “pushed out,” from PIE *steup-, from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. For sense evolution, cf. L. privignus “stepson,” related to privus “deprived.”

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_origin_of_the_word_%27stepchild%27

In my previous blog contribution I considered the origins of the word “family”.  I  concluded that the concept of family as a nuclear, genetically-linked group is a relatively modern concept emerging sometime in the 17th century and culminating in such pop-cultural jargon as “family values”, an undefined but politically-charged term emerging sometime during the political campaigning of the 1960’s.

 

Although there have been several notable attempts to provide a better name for “modern” families, “Step” continues to be the prefix of choice.  Unfortunately it doesn’t mean “take a step in the right direction” as though it were a part of a larger and progressive process.  Unfortunately, although ancient in origin, the concepts of sad and deprived children, as demonstrated by the etymology, are all too often reflected in today’s reconstituted families.

 

Just in case you think I’m spending way too much time worrying about the ideas behind these adoption-related words, apparently I’m not the only other person thinking about this stuff:

 

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-origin-word-step-blended-families-and-7708888.html?cat=25

 

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: