Word of the Week: Folklore

The term folklore combines the two words folk and lore. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word folk means “people generally” (Merriam-Webster) and the word lore means “a particular body of knowledge” (Merriam-Webster). Combining the two words (and definitions), folklore means “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people,” (Merriam-Webster).

The origins of the word “folklore” stem from the Germanic branch languages: Old English, German, and Dutch. The word “folk” was spelt “folc” in Old English and “volk” in German and Dutch. The word “lore” was spelt lārin Old English, lehre in German, and “leer in Dutch. Basically, folklore’s etymology stems from the combined two words folk + lore.

Other forms of the word are: folklorist (n.), folklorish (adj.), folkloric (adj.), and folkloristic (adj.).

A common word associated with folklore is folktale. According to Merriam-Webster Dicitonary, a folktale is “a characteristically anonymous, timeless, and placeless tale circulated orally among a people,” (Merriam-Webster). So, folklore is the general word used to describe the combination of stories and tales while a folktale is referring to a specific story/tale.

Another common word that is both associated and used interchangeably with folklore is fairytale. In an article by the Westerville Public Library called “Fairy Tales, Folklore, & More“, it defines and differentiates the words folklore, fairytale, fable, and some others.

Folklore was originally intended for adults. However, in modern times the term these tales and stories are told more to children, hence the term fairytale was born. The article describes this best by explaining that fairytales are ” [t]raditinoal folktales adapted and written down for entertainment of children,…” (Westerville Public Library). The article also explains what fables, proverbs, legends, and other related words are affiliated with the word folklore.

What’s your favorite folktale? Comment Below!


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