Etymology of the Word "Evil"

By Gary Amirault


According to the Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto, the original meaning of the English word "evil" has changed considerably over the last few hundred years. Not surprising. It seems theologians have had considerable influence upon shaping words to cause us to see according to their doctrines rather than what is plainly written. Mr. Ayto writes:

"Evil" has gotten distinctly worse over the millenia. Originally it seems to have signified nothing more sinister than "uppity," and in the Old and Middle English period it meant simply "bad"; it is only in modern English that its connotations of "extreme moral wickedness" came to the fore. It probably comes ultimately from "upelo-", a derivative of the Indo-European base "upo-, under (source of Greek hupo, under, Sanskrit "upa", at, to, and English "up" and "over"), and so its underlying connotation is of "exceeding due limits, extremism. Its Germanic descendant was "ubilaz", source of German übel, evil as well as English evil."

It seems this finding by John Ayto lines up perfectly with Scriptures. An example of this is found in Ezekiel Chapter 16 verse 49. When most Christians think of the sin or evil of Sodom, they usually think of the immoral sexual sins of Sodom of which homosexuality would be considered the height of their depravity. Yet this is how the Creator describes Sodom's condition:

Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominations before Me; therefore, I took them away as I saw fit.

This passage seems to line up very nicely with the original meaning of the word "evil." The modern church generally teaches that the "evil" of Sodom is the height of wickedness and that its fate of destruction by fire is an example of the destruction of the world which has not become a part of the church. However, the Creator says there is a worse condition of "evil" than that of Sodom's. Jerusalem is a type and picture of His own people, the "apple of His eye." Here is how He describes the condition of His own people, those who certainly would not consider "Sodom" as their own sister. Speaking to His own "chosen" people He says:

Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done. You who judged your sisters bear your own shame also, because the sins which you committed were more abominable than theirs; they are more righteous than you. Yes, be disgraced also, and bear your own shame because you justified your sisters. When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them, that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them. When your sister Sodom and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state.

It seems the word "uppity" seems like a good definition for the word "evil." It also seems like the "chosen" people are more "uppity" than Sodom and Samaria. It seems almost blasphemous to think that the wickedness of the Creator's own people will justify the likes of Sodom and Samaria and that they will be restored to their former state. That Sodom, in the eyes of God, is a sister to the "chosen" people. It certainly is not a sermon I have ever heard preached in the 200+ churches I have attended. But then I never heard that Sodom's primary sin was "uppityness," fullness of food, and abundance of idleness, and not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy. I have been in many churches that are exhibiting the very sins that are ascribed to Sodom. I have never heard a preacher describe their congregation as "sisters to Sodom." Can you imagine what would happen to all the hot air evangelists spew out if we actually believed the plain Word of God that the "uppityness" of God's own people have "justified" the worst sinners in the world? Why, it would completely stop all the hot foul wind coming from these "last days revival" messages preached by thousands of "ministries" trying to raise millions of dollars to save a few more before God finally destroys this "uppity" world. We just might repent of our own "uppityness" and let God restore this whole fallen mankind to its former state. We might then find the time to "strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy."



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