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Word for Wednesday: Pupil 

August is drawing to a close and to get you prepared for the start of the academic year in just a few day’s time, we’ve chosen a school-related word for this week’s Word for Wednesday. 

The word pupil has two meanings. It can be used to describe a school student and the dark circle at the centre of the iris in an eye. Although not all homonyms have the same origin, both versions of the word pupil derive from the Latin ‘pupilla’ meaning ‘doll’. While it’s not too difficult to see how the meaning of pupil might have evolved from doll, to child, to schoolchild, to student; you might be wondering where the eye-related meaning comes into the picture. 

The word first entered English in the late fourteenth century via the Old French ‘pupille’ and by this point it was already being used to refer to children – particularly orphans or wards. It took on the meaning ‘student’ in the sixteenth century. The ‘centre of the eye’ meaning dates to the early fifteenth century and – here’s where the link gets interesting – refers to the tiny reflection of oneself seen in someone else’s eyes.  So, in this context, a pupil is literally the 'little person in someone’s eye'.  

Do you have any words you’d like us to feature in future Word for Wednesday posts? Let us know in the comments! 

28 Aug 2019
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