- June 6, 2008
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Categories: Business Info Blog, Word of the Week Blog
The evolution of the word business has followed a similar path to the evolution of a business. We know that running an organisation keeps you in a state of busyness. However, the words business and busyness aren’t closely related but they did both originate from the word busy.
What is a business?
We can define business as when a person or organisation exchanges goods or services for money. Civilisation and commerce are parallel developments. When cities developed people moved from being farmers to specialising in functions necessary to the society. Soldiers were needed for defence, shops were needed to sell goods, administrators were needed to manage infrastructure, etcetera. Money was invented as a way of mediating between goods and services and for tax.
The creation of money
Cattle were probably one of the first mediums of exchange. They were highly valuable for food or clothing. The Latin word pecunia, which means money, originally came from pecus, the Latin word for cattle. Cowrie shells and precious metals were used before the creation of currency.
Once money and specialised jobs occurred businesses developed.
The anxiety of business
Busy (originally bignis) is a very old word—it existed in Old English and Dutch but nowhere else.
The Online Etymological Dictionary suggests that the word business (bisignisse) evolved in the north of England and that its original meaning, perhaps unsurprisingly, was anxiety; anxious having been one of the meanings of busy.
The meaning diverged in the 14th-15th centuries into being busy, and one’s work or occupation. The sense of business as a trade and commercial entity appeared in the 18th century (in the 17th busy was a euphemism for being sexually active).
What it means for business
In the 19th and 20th centuries, business came to mean quite a few things. So what does this mean for the businessperson? You start off anxious, get busy, work hard, develop an occupation or trade, and, perhaps, after a very long time you might be successful.