What does this word, wisdom, mean to you? Take out a piece of paper and jot down all you can. Think of people who have wisdom, what about them makes you think they have wisdom? Think of the word. What other words does this make you think of?
Wisdom is such an important word, but where does this word come from? It is a good habit of smart thinking to look back in history for clues. Remember that history is our story. We all come out of the past. Everyone alive today has had great-great-grandparents who hustled and survived.
Far enough back, our ancestors decided to start writing down symbols. What began with cave paintings, dirt scrapings and woodcarvings has evolved for tens of thousands of years into wh at we now use every day. If we can trace where this word wisdom has come from, will it give us any clues as to how to learn to be wise? Will it help point us towards the essence of wisdom?
Words are cultural artifacts. Each one with its own history. Each one with its own ancestors, its early forms, its early influences. Because the letters that make up words are so familiar to us, we forget that they are images, they are symbols. And words are, at their essence, strings of symbols, that in turn, symbolize.
The word wisdom comes from the collision of two words, wis and the suffix -dom. The root word wis comes from old Germanic origins, meaning “to see, to know.” The word wise and vision come from the same historical root. The suffix –dom refers to dominion, the domain, the estate. Think of other words that end with the suffix –dom. Kingdom, the state of the king. Freedom, the dominion of the free. So wisdom essentially refers to the place of vision, the domain of clear perception, the province of sound judgment.
To be wise is to see far and wide. To see clearly. To have vision.