Get the Word! Etymology with Mike and Alexa, Ep 1. (Homage and Tribute)


This first episode of Get the Word! is being released to the general public, through the podcast and through our Patreon page ( ). These episodes will feature Mike, an English teacher and Etymology nerd and Alexa, a PhD candidate in Anthropology. They will discuss the history of the words we use everyday in English! We would love to hear from all of you. I will release some "Get The Word!" episodes exclusively on Patreon, so make sure to support The English Sessions on Patreon for these bonus episodes. What would you like to hear us discuss? Write in to the podcast,

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Earliest use 12th century in English:

HOMO - man (Latin)

FRENCH: “homme vassal” = liege “concerned with or relating to the relationship between a feudal superior and a vassal”

Vassal: a holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance (OXFORD)

OXFORD: (the original use of the word denoted the ceremony by which a vassal declared himself to be his lord's ‘man’).

“modern use related to honor or respect still ties into ceremony”

HOMAGER: A vassal who paid homage to a feudal lord.

“AGE” le fuselage - fuselage, body (sab·o·tage; homage) (Structure of the Feudal State in England
Feudalism in 12th-century England was among the better structured and established systems in Europe at the time. The king was the absolute “owner” of land in the feudal system, and all nobles, knights, and other tenants, termed vassals, merely “held” land from the king, who was thus at the top of the feudal pyramid.
Below the king in the feudal pyramid was a tenant-in-chief (generally in the form of a baron or knight), who was a vassal of the king. Holding from the tenant-in-chief was a mesne tenant—generally a knight or baron who was sometimes a tenant-in-chief in their capacity as holder of other fiefs. Below the mesne tenant, further mesne tenants could hold from each other in series.
Before a lord could grant land (a fief) to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This was done at a formal and symbolic ceremony called a commendation ceremony, which was composed of the two-part act of homage and oath of fealty. During homage, the lord and vassal entered into a contract in which the vassal promised to fight for the lord at his command, while the lord agreed to protect the vassal from external forces.

Figurative sense of "reverence, honor shown" is from late 14c. (What changed?)

1590s (agent noun homager is from c. 1400), from homage (n.). Related: Homaged; homaging.


OXFORD: (By the way... obeisance is totally a word!!)
obeisance | ə(ʊ)ˈbeɪs(ə)ns |
noun [mass noun]
deferential respect: they paid obeisance to the Prince.
• [count noun] a gesture expressing deferential respect, such as a bow or curtsy: she made a deep obeisance.
obeisant adjective

late Middle English (in the sense ‘obedience’): from Old French obeissance, from obeissant ‘obeying’, present participle of obeir.

TRIBUTE: Definition:
1. An act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.
1.1in singular Something resulting from a particular quality or feature and indicating its worth. ‘his victory in the championship was a tribute to his persistence’
1.2as modifier Denoting or relating to a group or musician that performs the music of a more famous one and typically imitates them in appearance and style of performance.
‘an Abba tribute band’
‘a tribute show’
2. historical - Payment made periodically by one state or ruler to another, especially as a sign of dependence.
3. historical - A proportion of ore or its equivalent, paid to a miner for his work, or to the owner or lessor of a mine.

mid-14c., "stated sum of money or other valuable consideration paid by one ruler or country to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of peace or protection," from Anglo-French tribute, Old French tribut and directly from Latin tributum "tribute, a stated payment, a thing contributed or paid,"
  • noun use of neuter of tributus, past participle of tribuere "to pay, assign, grant," 
  • also "allot among the tribes or to a tribe," from tribus (see tribe). 
  • Sense of "offering, gift, token" is first recorded 1580s. 
BECOMES FIGURATIVE WHEN? After 1580s - Could not find when it becomes more figurative - which is where it coincides more with homage - but it is clear to see how paying tribute to someone is a figurative use of paying literal tribute. A trajectory from coercive/submission to offering/gift to figurative - an honor paid to someone.
Did find a double origin of TRIBUTE: trib-(utum) as payment, assign, grant
But also tribe -
mid-13c., directly from Latin tribus "one of the three political/ethnic divisions of the original Roman state" (Tites, Ramnes, and Luceres, corresponding, perhaps, to the Latins, Sabines, and Etruscans), later, one of the 30 political divisions instituted by Servius Tullius (increased to 35 in 241 B.C.E.), of unknown origin.
  • Perhaps from tri- "three" + *bheue-, root of the verb be
  • Others connect the word with the PIE root *treb- "a dwelling" (see tavern).
tribus f (genitive tribūs); fourth declension
  1. One of the three original tribes of Rome: Ramnes, Tities, Luceres.
  2. A division of the Roman people.
  3. A tribe.
  4. The mob, the lower classes.
A compound from the stem of trēs (“three”) and either:
Originally referring to three divisions of the (Roman) people. Cognate to Umbrian trifu (“tribe, people”).
The etymology then tells us that tribute came from payment between groups of people, and that sense still lives with us with how we usually use the word “pay” when talking about tribute
Homo singular; tribus plural or group; homage = money/goods?
Lots of words with this as a root - contribute, attribute, distribute, retribution
In the Biblical sense, which was the original one in English, the Latin word translates Greek phyle "race or tribe of men, body of men united by ties of blood and descent, a clan" (see phylo-). Extension to modern ethnic groups or races of people is from 1590s, specifically "a division of a barbarous race of people, usually distinguishable in some way from their congeners, united into a community under a recognized head or chief" [Century Dictionary], but colloquially of any aggregate of individuals of a kind.
tribute (countable and uncountable, plural tributes)
  1. An acknowledgment of gratitude, respect or admiration; an accompanying gift.
Please accept this as a tribute of our thanks.
  1. An homage made in a body of work to another work or creator.
    Did you catch the Up in Smoke tribute in that episode of That '70s Show?
A payment made by one nation to another in submission.
The Ancient Romans made their conquered countries pay tribute.
Extortion; protection money.
A payment made by a feudal vassal to his lord.
(mining) A certain proportion of the mined ore, or of its value, given to the miner as payment.
tributer (plural tributers)
  1. (mining, Britain) A miner who is paid in a certain portion of the ore, or its value.
    Tributers generally work in gangs, and have a limited portion of a lode set them, called a tribute pitch, beyond which they are not permitted to work, and for which they receive a certain portion of the ore, or so much per pound, as agreed upon, of the value of what they raise.
    ________ (Written by Rafael Krux)


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