Hunger

“Hunger” is a common word with many implications. It has an expansive etymology, a multitude of definitions, and psychological as well as physically references. Let us explore all these facets of “hunger” in detail in the following paragraphs.

If you are hungering for the knowledge of the origins of “hunger,” you will have to look far. It all started with the Proto-Indo-European word “kenk,” which meant various things: “to burn, smart, desire, hunger, thirst” (Wiktionary). From this ancient language, the term traveled to Proto-Germanic as “hungruz” or “hunhruz” with only the meaning of “hunger.” However, when it came to Old English as “hungor,” it acquired extra meanings: hunger, desire, and famine. Finally, it moved onto Middle English and Modern English with the spelling of “hunger” with the same meaning as it had in Old English. So, the derivative form of “hunger,” “kenk,” was not only different in spelling, but also in meaning. But as soon the term reached Old English, its definition and spelling remained fairly solid. “Hunger” in English is also cognate with “West Frisian honger, hûnger (“hunger”), Dutch honger (“hunger”), German Low German Hunger (“hunger”), German Hunger (“hunger”), Swedish hunger (“hunger”), Icelandic hungur (“hunger”)” (Wiktionary). Thus, in many other languages, there are similar forms of the term with alike meanings.

Though the history of the word is long and not linear as such, the definition of “hunger” in modern English is more straightforward. According to Oxford Dictionaries, it can be used as a noun and as a verb. As a mass noun, it means, “A feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.” In addition, it can be defined as, “ A severe lack of food.” Going another direction, it can also mean, “A strong desire or craving” (Oxford Dictionaries). In a verbal sense, it is defined: “Have a strong desire or craving for.” An example sentence could be, “He hungered for a new position in his company.” For an archaic verbal form, it can mean to, “Feel or suffer hunger” (Oxford Dictionaries). For instance, it can be used like, “She hungered while fasting during her religious ritual.” Much of this we might have already known before encountering this essay, but it is still a good refresher. In addition, most readers are not acquainted with its more archaic definition.

Now that we have gone over the technical look at the word “hunger,” let us delve into the more abstract perception of it. There should be an explanation about what physical and psychological hunger is. According to The Central Ohio Nutrition Center, “Psychological hunger is not caused by an actual, physical pain or need for food to survive. Psychological hunger is caused by a desire to eat either out of habit, because you see good food around you, because you are emotional or upset, or because it tastes good and is “fun” (“Physical or Psychological Hunger?”). However, considering physical hunger, “Physical hunger shows itself with physical feelings of emptiness in your stomach, rumbling accompanied by weakness” (“Physical or Psychological Hunger?”). There is also the notion of hungering for a goal, such as ambition. If we work extremely hard towards a certain result, we can be said to have a hunger (or a thirst) for greatness. “Keeping that hunger alive” is often referenced in sports and competitive events in general. Hunger in this sense is seen as a positive trait, and something that drives us to do great things. Yet, sometimes, hunger can be referenced in a negative way on the world stage. In newspapers, you will often see headlines and articles about “power-hungry corporations” or other entities that act in a greedy way.

“Hunger” came from Proto-Indo-European origins with various meanings and a strange spelling. However, when it reached Old English, the term we know and love was fairly consolidated. Its definitions are fairly straightforward as a noun and verb, though it has an archaic verbal usage. “Hunger” also relates not only to physical sensations, but also to psychological and egoistic needs. I hope this comprehensive look at “hunger” has given you a better picture of its etymology, definition, and implications.

Works Cited

“Hunger.” Wiktionary, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hunger.

“Hunger | Definition of Hunger in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/hunger.

“Physical or Psychological Hunger?” Central Ohio Nutrition Center, www.conci.com/weight-loss-tips/physical-or-psychological-hunger.

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