Post by Madrigal Gurneyhalt Post by Peter Duncanson [BrE] Post by the Omrud Post by email@example.com
What's it mean and what's its origin — and is that a better term than etymology?
It's from the bible.
"Quick" is an old word meaning "alive2.
Yes. The characteristic of a living thing is that it can move in some
Over the centuries the meaning of "quick" has developed from "alive" to
"moving rapidly", physically or mentally, and then to "rapid/fast/etc".
That's a pleasing looking 'evolution' but it really isn't realistic. OED has
citations for 'quick' in the sense of mental acuity from the 13th Century
and physically speedy from the very beginning of the 14th. The word's
inherent extensibility seems to be almost as old as the word itself.
In what sense is it not realistic? All you seem to be saying is that
the semantic extension begins earlier than you might think -- and
might not even have taken many centuries to emerge. Probably true.
From "alive" to "lively" (if not all the way to "speedy") might be
a very well-worn semantic pathway. Certainly we can see derivatives
from the same root (PIE *gwei-) in different branches moving in the
same direction: Greek biōtikós 'fit for life, lively', Latin vīvidus
'living, animated, lively', Russian zhivoj 'living; vivid, brisk, animated'.
Has English alone extended it to "rapid"?
Looking at the closer cognates: Dutch kwiek 'spry', German keck 'bold',
but Swedish kvick 'quick, rapid, swift'... Is this an English borrowing,
or could the "swift" sense in English be due to Norse influence?