Meanings: “Happiness”

November 13, 2011

Note the etymological link between “happiness” and chance:

“Greek mythology, ancient Egypt and cultures throughout the Mediterranean before and after Christ perpetuated the idea that happiness was almost always a miracle. This is why, as Darrin M. McMahon explains in his book Happiness: A History, luck and fate are almost always cognates for happiness in Indo-European languages. In English, for instance, the root of happiness comes from the Middle English and Old Norse happ, which meant chance and fortune and shows up in the words “perhaps,” ”happens,” happenstance,” and “haphazard.” In Spanish and Portuguese the words felicidad and felicidade stem from the latin world felix, which means luck, sometimes fate. And in Serbo-Croatian the word srecan means happiness and luck and is found in the phrases sretna okolnost (lucky circumstance) and imati srecu (to happen upon or have luck).

“After the Enlightenment, things changed. Happiness went from being elusive to being an entitlement. The pursuit of it was a “self-evident truth,” which was to be pursued here on Earth, as Thomas Jefferson famously declared.”

From the blog Why We Reason.

h/t: Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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