More Common: ‘Foot’ or ‘Etymologically’?

The OED’s etymology sections are jammed full of technical terms like ‘aphetic’, ‘stem’, and ‘neut.’; commonish words that are overrepresented here because of context, like ‘whence’, ‘obscure’, ‘adoption’, and ‘origin’; and generally very common words like ‘the’, ‘of’, and ‘is’. So what is the most common root sense in OED2 (1989)? It may be ‘stone’, which appears in 563 of the 219,854 main etymology entries. Other words semantically relevant to the headword include, in order of frequency: ‘hand’, ‘water’, ‘small’ (?), ‘cut’, ‘foot’, ‘tree’, ‘land’, ‘plant’, ‘wood’, ‘house’, and ’round’ (combining the adjective and the British adverb for ‘around’, as in ‘going round’).

Somewhere among that order is ‘etymologically’, which occurs only 448 times in the OED’s etymologies, the 489th most common word there, just one rank below ‘foot’.

 

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