ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES and other words

While Charles Darwin gave us the theory of evolution in his ground-breaking work On the Origin of Species, the subject of this blog is etymology: the origin of words and how their meanings have changed over time.

This blog is not intended as an academic treatise on etymology. It does not give every single meaning of the words given below. It is intended as a light and playful skim of the surface rather a plunge into the depths of the meaning, history and origin of words.

On the origin of species and other words

on the origin of species

On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1809-1882


The noun species comes from Latin species, which meant ‘a particular sort, kind or type’. In Late Latin, it also came to mean ‘a special case’. The Latin noun is related to the verb specere ‘to look at, to see, behold’. From the 1550s, species came to mean ‘appearance, outward form’, and by the 1560s it had evolved to mean ‘distinct class (of something) based on common characteristics’. The biological meaning of ‘species’ dates from c. 1600. The term ‘endangered species’ appears to date from 1964.

Did you know? The word ‘spice’ derives from the same Late Latin word species.

…and now we go alphabetical

Now that we’ve looked into ‘on the origin of species’, we’ll look at some other words.

I’ve chosen the theme of prefixes and compounds. A prefix is a group of letters, with a specific meaning, added to the beginning of a word to create a new word with a different meaning. The prefix un-, for example, added to the beginning of happy, changes the meaning to, in this case, its opposite: unhappy. Compound nouns comprise some or all of the letters of two separate words in combination.


This prefix derives from the Latin ante, meaning ‘before (in place or time), in front of, against’.

Some examples:

antechamber – a chamber, room or apartment through which access is gained to a principal apartment

antenatal – before birth

ante meridiem – before midday. Most of us are familiar with the abbreviated form am, which is used in the example sentence below.

Sentences using the above:

The king’s youthful groom of the stool looked up when the queen entered the antechamber on her way to the king’s private apartments.

The young parents attended antenatal classes to be ready for the birth of their twins.

‘We leave at 11 am,’ Dot’s husband announced.

What’s the opposite of ante-?

The opposite of ante- is post-.


bene- comes from the Latin adverb meaning ‘well, in the right way, honourably, properly’.

Some examples:

beneficence – kind, charitable

benefit – something beneficial or advantageous

benign – kind, favourable

Sentences using the above:

The king’s beneficence was appreciated by all his medieval subjects.

A benefit of working from home is you don’t get caught in peak traffic.

He has a benign smile.

What’s the opposite of bene-?

The opposite of bene- is mal-.


This prefix comes from the Greek word kardia meaning ‘heart’.cardio

Some examples:

cardiologist – heart specialist

cardiometer – a device to measure the strength of the heart

cardiopulmonary – relating to the heart and the lungs

Sentences using the above:

The cardiologist measured the strength of Sue’s heart using a cardiometer.

The conference addressed specialists in cardiopulmonary diseases.

dec- and deca-

These prefixes derive from the Greek word deka meaning ‘ten’.

Some examples:

Decalogue – the Ten Commandments. The word originally came from the Greek dekalogos; later, in Latin, this became decalogus.

decagon – a polygon with ten angles and ten sides

decaspermal – a botanical term meaning a plant that contains ten seeds

Sentences using the above:

God handed Moses the Decalogue on Mt Sinai.

A polygon with ten sides is called a decagon.

The berry of the plant Psidium decaspermum is decaspermal.


This is a shortening of ecology or ecological and refers to the environment and its relationship with human beings. It originates from the Greek oikos for ‘house, dwelling’.

Some examples:

ecofreak (that’s a good one!) – someone who is fanatical about conservation of the environment

ecology – the branch of biology dealing with the relationship of living organisms to their environment (Greek eco- + logos ‘word, reason, discourse’)

eco-friendly – causing limited or no damage to the environment

Sentence using the above:

Some people think Ben’s an ecofreak because he majored in ecology and he works for an eco-friendly organisation.


Franco- derives from the Medieval Latin word meaning ‘French’ or ‘the Franks’. From the early eighteenth century it has been used to form English compound words.

prefix Franco

ooh la, la

Some examples:

Francophile – a person who loves France and the French to the point of obsession

Francophobe – a person who has a morbid fear of the French

Franco-Canadians – French-speaking Canadians

Sentences using the above:

All Fred’s friends call him a Francophile because he visits France every year and he’s in love with France and the French.

Robert is a Francophobe who can’t stand France or the French.

People who speak French in Canada are called Franco-Canadians or Canadiens.


Deriving from the Greek word gastēr, this meant ‘stomach’.

Some examples:

gastroenterologist – a specialist in the branch of medicine dealing with the stomach and intestines

gastroenteritis – inflammation of the stomach and intestines. You may have heard this abbreviated colloquially to ‘gastro’

gastropod – a class of molluscs that move by sliding along on a ventral (relating to the belly) muscular ‘foot’

Sentences using the above:

Frank was having recurring problems with his digestion so his doctor referred him to a gastroenterologist.

I had to take two days off work because I had an attack of gastroenteritis.

Slugs and snails are gastropods.


From the Greek hydōr meaning ‘water’.

Some examples:

hydroelectric – electricity produced from the energy of running water

hydrogen – colourless, gaseous element. From the French hydrogène (Greek hydōr + Greek genēs meaning ‘born’), coined in 1787 by French chemist L.B. Guyton de Morveau in reference to the generation of water from the combustion of hydrogen

hydroplane – motor-powered boat that glides on the surface of water, coined 1895 by U.S. engineer Harvey D. Williams. (Greek hydōr + Latin plānum ‘level surface’). As a verb, it was first recorded in 1962 meaning to ‘skid on a thin layer of water’ (especially of car tyres)

Sentences using the above:

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, commissioned in 2008.

Hydrogen is a colourless gas and it is the lightest and most common element in the universe.

hydroplane is a speedboat that rises out of the water when it reaches a certain speed.


From the Greek idio- meaning ‘private, separate, distinct’, this indicates peculiarity, isolation, or something pertaining to an individual person or thing.

Some examples:

idiom – words whose meaning cannot be understood from the meanings of accompanying words, e.g. ‘It was raining cats and dogs’. Unless you’re a native English speaker, or a proficient non-native English speaker, you cannot predict the meaning of ‘cats and dogs’ in this sentence

idiosyncrasy – a quirk or unusual trait, mannerism or behaviour (from Greek idiosunkrasia: idio– + sunkrasis mixture, temperament)

idolatry – ‘the worship of idols’ or ‘excessive devotion to someone/something’

Sentences using the above:

The English-language students looked at one another in astonishment when their teacher used the idiom ‘bite the bullet’.

Her idiosyncrasy was that she wore reading glasses when she didn’t need them.

His idolatry of the president is insufferable.


From the Greek kerat-, keras meaning ‘horn’

Some examples:

keratin – a  protein in the outer layer of the skin and in hair, nails, feathers, hooves, etc.

keratosis – a harmless skin condition characterised by a horny or scaly growth

Sentences using the above:

A horn is a permanent pointed projection on the head of various animals consisting of a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of live bone (Wikipedia).

When I had my skin cancer check recently, the specialist said not to worry as I only had a solar keratosis.

Did you know? The word cornea (the transparent membrane covering the front of the eyeball) is a Latin word related to the Greek keras.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the origin of words like ‘species’, ‘ecofreak’ and ‘Francophile’, drop me an email.


Collins Online Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english

Macquarie Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/

Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed 02/01/19, https://www.etymonline.com/

Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition, CD-ROM Version 4.0

Wikipedia, accessed 03/01/19, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horn_(anatomy)

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

Creative Writing Ideas for Children and Teenagers

creative writing ideas for children and teenagers, fantastic picture with elephant and other animals on top of a giant tortoise

Creative writing ideas for children and teenagers

  • How do writers write?
  • How do you write?
  • Where do creative writing ideas come from? 

Creative kids are everywhere. I’m always astonished at the sophistication of some young people’s writing. You can find a lot of good writing by young writers on the social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Do you like to write?

Even if you think you don’t like writing, or that you don’t write, think about this: do you write emails? Text messages? School work? Do you post on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? Do you write a blog? Without even realising it, you are writing all the time.

We all write even if we think we don’t.

So how do writers write? and where do their ideas come from?

I’m going to show you rather than tell you. ‘Showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is also a technique in writing that you may have heard about. But more on that in another blog …

The example that follows shows just how important it is to READ and to use WORDS, in our writing and in our speaking. Although I’ve used this example in a previous blog, it’s worth repeating.

  • In 1974, there were 475,000 words in common use in the English language
  • That had gone down to 215,000 commonly used words by 1995
  • In 2006, it was believed to have reduced further to 90,000 words

What does this mean? The people who write dictionaries use the words that are in common use, i.e. the words that most people know and understand. That means that the less common words – words that actually make our language richer – are being left out. That means they might eventually be forgotten. How can we make a difference and help to reverse this trend? By reading a lot and using a richer vocabulary. By using the dictionary to look up words we don’t know. Everyone needs to use a dictionary throughout their life. I am a professional writer and editor, yet I use a dictionary every day, to check on spellings and the correct use of words.

And this might sound strange, but the OLDER the dictionary – especially a very good one like the Oxford dictionary – the better. Why do you think that might be? One reason is that the older the dictionary, the more of these ‘lost’ words you can find.

creative writing ideas for children and teenagers. pic of two books and book end

Use a good dictionary and a thesaurus


How do you write?


When do you write? What time of the day, and how often?


Where do you write?


What do you write about? Do you write creative pieces, or emails and texts, or posts on Facebook or other social media?

If you enjoy writing, and want to practise creative writing, here are some ideas to help you:

  • It helps to have a QUIET place to write
  • Keeping a JOURNAL or a DIARY is a really good way to write regularly. No one else needs to read this. It can be your private thoughts and feelings, a vivid dream you’ve had, a description of a beautiful sunset …
  • You can enter writing COMPETITIONS. These are advertised on the internet and in writing magazines
  • You can join a writing group. Many writing associations have specific groups for young writers.

But most of all, YOU WRITE BY WRITING!


creative writing ideas for children and teenagers/. picture of unicorn

The mythical unicorn embodies magic and wonder

Writing is a creative process. I don’t believe there should be too many rules. For every writer there’s a different ‘how’ and ‘when’ and ‘where’. When you read about the writing habits of famous authors, every one of them has different suggestions to make.

As to ‘why’ we write, most writers would agree that it’s something we need to do, almost as much as we need to eat and breathe, but on a soul level rather than on a physical level. I love this quote from Pearl S. Buck, which expresses so well the powerful drive behind a writer’s need to write.

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them … a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off … They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating. (Pearl S. Buck)

To diverge briefly, Pearl S. Buck was an American writer and novelist (1892–1973). The daughter of missionaries, she spent most of her life before 1934 in China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 for her depictions of peasant life in China. She was an amazing woman and well worth Googling to find out more about her!

creative writing ideas for children and teenagers. photo of pearl s buck

Pearl S. Buck wrote about her life in China

Writer’s block

Have you heard of ‘writer’s block’? Do you know what it means? When you’re a writer and you want to write something but the ideas don’t flow, it’s called writer’s block.  You can read these suggestions.

Here is another exercise to UNBLOCK. It might help not only to unblock your creativity, but also lead you to write a great story.

Creative ideas to overcome writer’s block

Write ten short, easy sentences – write them one by one, using a KEY WORD or a KEY IDEA for each sentence. It’s best to use SIMPLE words, and to write just ONE SHORT SENTENCE for each key word.

Just write. Don’t think too much. Here are some examples. You can use these or make up your own.

  1. Key word – weather
  2. Key word – an inanimate object. Example: a rock
  3. Key word – an article of clothing. Example: a pair of shoes
  4. Key word – what is the weather doing now? Example: raining
  5. Key word – a sound. Example: a continuous background sound, like a bell ringing
  6. Key word – a mood or feeling.  Connect the mood or feeling to the inanimate object. Even if it’s the rock, just go with it! Keep your creative mind open
  7. Key word – an outstanding character trait. Example: blackened and missing teeth. This is the first glimpse of one of your characters
  8. Key word – a sound. The same as before; make it happen again. In the example above, the bell ringing
  9. Key word – another article of clothing. Example: a woollen jacket. Link it to a physical action; a character may put it on or take it off
  10. Key word – first piece of dialogue. Make it unexpected. Simple. A question or a statement.

A premise or story idea

Now, start with a PREMISE – an IDEA for your story. Choose one of the following premises – just one – or make up your own:

  1. On a dark night you’re returning home from violin practice when you’re stopped by …
  2. Your best friend calls to tell you she’s watching a scary movie …
  3. A black cat crosses your path and …
  4. Mary Poppins turns up at your door and says …
  5. You go for a walk in the mountains and can’t find the path back …
  6. You win $10,000,000 in the Lotto
  7. Write about a picture you like.
creative writing ideas for children and teenagers. photo of child writing in a notebook

Writing your story

Putting it all together

Now start writing, using your PREMISE and the KEY WORDS and KEY IDEAS you came up with earlier.

Write no more than two pages.

If you find your idea expanding, write some more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next …

Before you know it, you might even find yourself writing a novel!

Have fun with your creative writing

Send me an email to tell me what you’re writing about, and how you’re going with your writing.


Client Testimonial: Children’s Author Trish Teske

Recommending Gail of editors4you is my pleasure! Throughout the entire process of manuscript appraisal and editing, Gail’s positive and constructive feedback at each review of Gruntz made the task of fine-tuning certain elements easy to achieve. She listens to your reasoning on particular characters and themes and offers clear and concise suggestions to progress the story for readability and consistency.

Thank you again, Gail, for your professional attention and time with Book One–Gruntz: Finding zO!—Trish Teske, Gruntz: Finding zO (children’s novel)

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge Your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

IPEd logo
Gail Tagarro, Accredited Editor, IPEd

Five Creative Steps for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Many authors experience writer’s block at times. Writer’s block attracts a plethora of helpful and not-so-helpful solutions, among them suggestions to take a break from writing, go for a walk, drink coffee…the list goes on. These solutions apply to solving issues with boredom or procrastination – which is fine if one of these happens to be the underlying cause of the block. We offer five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block.

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Writer’s block: don’t throw it away yet

We suggest that writer’s block is an issue with creativity. Whether the writer is struggling to make a story work, or is unable to come up with a new idea, the underlying problem is that the writer’s creativity is overworked and needs time off.

We’ve come up with five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block.

Enjoy the following unusual and inventive methods to kick-start your creativity back into gear.

Step 1 – A change of scenery

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Go somewhere high, go somewhere new

Moving out of your normal workspace is a great start, but walking around the same boring park you know like the back of your hand won’t do you any good. (You’ll know a change of scene is needed when you start using clichés like ‘the back of your hand’…) Make sure your displacement is worth the effort.

Try to get to the highest point that you can reach. Take a notebook and pen for scribbling down the ideas that flow. Can you access the roof of your building? Are there any hills or natural features around that you can safely climb? Think about where the best view in your neighbourhood is and go there. To save yourself some legwork, challenge your friends on Facebook to come up with the best local view – you might receive some interesting responses!

Step 2 – Distract yourself

Once you have given your eyes something new to experience, give your other senses the same treatment. Go to the busiest, loudest, most inappropriate public place to write that you can think of, and do not leave until you’ve finished at least 500 words. Francine Prose, a contemporary American author, is most productive when she finds her environment boring. If you are the same, then go somewhere that you find deadly dull and boring, not somewhere stimulating. Instead of working on your current project, which you need a break from, pick a random person and invent their life story. Keep safe. In your car on the motorway might not be the safest place.

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Distract yourself safely

Step 3 – Live a Day in Your Character’s Skin

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Live a day in your character’s skin

Having broken out of old patterns, it’s time to return to the work you’re stuck on. Don’t start writing again just yet. First, try experiencing your story in a more practical sense. Pick a character, major or minor, and go about your daily routine with the idea of them in your mind. Imagine how they would behave if they were experiencing your everyday reality.

When you speak, think about what they would say and how they would say it. Pay attention to the choices you make – the clothing you wear, the music you listen to, the meals you eat –and think about what they would choose in your place. If they were narrating your day, what perspective would they offer? Putting a character inside your mind is a great way to get yourself inside theirs.

Step 4 – Borrow Someone Else’s Story

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Borrow someone else’s story – temporarily

No, we’re not suggesting that you plagiarise! This is a private writing exercise for evaluating your understanding of your characters and their world. Obviously, you shouldn’t publish the results.

If you are struggling with a character, take them out of their comfort zone by moving them into another author’s world. Altered circumstances and rules will make your character behave differently. To get them through their altered circumstances in a way that is true to them and to their new world, you will need to contemplate fresh aspects of their personality.

This works best if the world you choose is from a completely different genre from the one you are currently writing. Bear in mind that the focus isn’t on the other author’s work, but on how your creations react to it. How would the hero of your romance novel handle being named captain of the Starship Enterprise? What if tomorrow your action heroine woke up in Mr Darcy’s guest bedroom? What would be different if your entire story took place in the world of Disney?

If you don’t want to focus too strongly on a single character, or you prefer to stay within the world you’ve created, try taking a single element out of another author’s work and sticking it right in the middle of yours. What would happen if a gateway to Narnia opened up in your character’s workplace? What if Batman roamed the character’s neighbourhood every night?

Step 5 – Destroy Your Story

five creative steps for overcoming writer's block, writer's block, Stephen King, Ernest Heminway, Francine Prose, Vladimir Nabokov, creativity, editors, inspiration, professional editors, editors4you, professional writers, manuscript appraisal, manuscripts

Destroy your story


…a little. It’s just a writing exercise. Take a step back from trying to find the perfect words and instead deliberately find the wrong ones. Stephen King has some suggestions about knowing when not to write. Open up a blank Word document and play with your story the way children play with toys; think of it as a holiday for your imagination.

Here are some ideas you might like to try:

  • The world will end in ten minutes. Be as concise and as absurd as you like, and resolve every plot point in your character’s final few moments
  • One of your characters is now a talking animal. This does not change their role in the story
  • Every character switches gender for one day
  • Every character gets exactly what they most want in life, but only for one hour
  • Arrange your characters’ names alphabetically, and then split them into pairs. Each pair is now soul mates
  • Your protagonist now has an imaginary friend, either an evil version of an existing character or a mythological creature of your choosing.

Have fun with your creations.


Checklist: five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block:

Step 1 – Change of Scenery

Find somewhere high in your neighbourhood

Go and check out the view

Take a break (but keep a notebook handy for scribbling down ideas)

Step 2 – Distract Yourself

Find the worst public place to write in

Pick a person

Write their life story

Don’t leave until you’re finished

Step 3 – Live a Day in your Character’s Skin

Pick a character and keep them in your mind

Go about your day

Try to experience everything from your character’s perspective

Step 4 – Borrow someone else’s story for a day

Pick your favourite book, movie or TV show

Choose one of your characters and move them into that world

Write about what happens, ensuring they stay in character


Pick an interesting idea from your favourite book, movie or TV show

Introduce the idea into your story

Write about what happens, making sure you stay true to your own story

Step 5 – Destroy your story (figuratively)

Let loose your imagination. Go crazy. Write whatever you want.

(This post is a collaboration between editors4you.com and Rhiannon Raphael, a Bond University student who undertook an internship with editors4you.com)

Once you have overcome your writer’s block, email your manuscript to us for a MANUSCRIPT APPRAISAL. Our assessment will give you a clear idea of the strengths of your manuscript, as well as suggested areas for improvement – in the kindest, most productive way. 

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge Your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing

Do You Have A Question Or Want More Information?