The Etymology of ‘Pedagogy’ Might Surprise You

Wait, it's not rooted just in the act of teaching or learning?

If you love education and love etymology, you’ll dig this. I love looking to the histories of words to better understand our world today. Pedagogy, I was always led to believe, is rooted in notions of teaching children or tutorials. A recent trip to the Oxford English Dictionary supported this idea:

Etymology: Partly < Middle French, French pédagogie instruction, education (1495), and partly < post-classical Latin paedagogia school (1550 in a British source), teaching, education (a1560), college (a1575), both < ancient Greek παιδαγωγία office of a pedagogue, teaching, training < παιδαγωγός pedagogue n. + -ία -y suffix3. Compare classical Latin paedagōgium training establishment for boys, pupils in such an establishment, school building, practice of teaching, in post-classical Latin also used of Christian teaching (c400)…

But there is a twist, one that I noticed in my Greek-English dictionary a few years ago. (Look here at the original entry from my 1852 dictionary).  See here, the OED gets at it too:

… and its etymon ancient Greek παιδαγωγεῖον room in a schoolhouse in which the attendant slaves waited for their boys, in Hellenistic Greek also school. Compare Spanish pedagogia (1605).

That’s right. Pedagogy doesn’t just refer historically to teaching and learning. It refers to the slaves who escorted boys to and from school.  Not sure what to do with that information at this moment, but it’s fascinating as all get out.


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