Meanings “Deep”

April 9, 2012

When we want to describe thinking as unusually profound or searching, we describe it as “deep.”  Good thinking may also reach to heights or have breadth, but there is something about the idea of thinking being “deep” that especially draws our respect. The etymology reminds us “deep” is another invaluable four letter Anglo Saxon word:

deep Look up deep at
O.E. deop (adj.) “profound, awful, mysterious; serious, solemn; deepness, depth,” deope (adv.), from P.Gmc. *deupaz (cf. O.S. diop, O.Fris. diap, Du. diep, O.H.G. tiof, Ger. tief, O.N. djupr, Dan. dyb, Swed. djup, Goth. diups “deep”), from PIE *dheub- “deep, hollow” (cf. Lith. dubus “deep, hollow, O.C.S. duno “bottom, foundation,” Welsh dwfn “deep,” O.Ir. domun “world,” via sense development from “bottom” to “foundation” to “earth” to “world”). Figurative senses were in O.E.; extended 16c. to color, sound. Deep pocket “wealth” is from 1951. To go off the deep end “lose control of oneself” is slang first recorded 1921, probably in reference to the deep end of a swimming pool, where a person on the surface can no longer touch bottom. The noun is O.E. deop “deep water,” especially the sea. When 3-D films seemed destined to be the next wave and the biggest thing to hit cinema since talkies, they were known as deepies (1953).

The meaning chimes sounded are both to “foundations” and to that which conjures “awe” or “mystery.”

The cartoon that is so much more than a cartoon XKCD gives us an astonishing image of “deep” today.  Click through to the original to be able to read all the fine print.


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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