Language Is a Many Splendored Thing

I found this etymological history of the word “Cabal” on wordsmith.org:

“The history of cabal reveals how a word can be transferred from one sphere of activity to another while retaining only a tenuous connection with its past. Ultimately from Hebrew but transmitted to English probably by way of Medieval Latin and French, cabal is first recorded in English in 1616 in the sense “cabala.” Cabala was the name for the Hebrew oral tradition transmitted by Moses and also the name for a Jewish religious philosophy based on an esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The notion “esoteric” is central to the development of this word in English, for cabal, probably following the sense development in French, came to mean “a tradition, special interpretation, or secret,” “a private intrigue” (first recorded in 1646-1647), and “a small body of intriguers” (first recorded in 1660). It is probably not coincidental that cabal is found with these latter meanings during the mid-17th century, that time of plots and counterplots by Royalists and Parliamentarians. The word gained a false etymology when it was noticed that the five most influential ministers of Charles II were named Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale.”

I love that last bit of info!

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