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By Johannes Helmold
The word “student” is common not only in English, but also in Afrikaans, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Latin, Lower Sorbian, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Polish, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Swedish, and Tatar. As you can see, this word has a rich history all over the world. For the purpose of this essay, however, we will focus on its English definitions, etymology and concepts aligned with it. Let us say that we will become a student of the word “student.”
Oxford Dictionary is usually the go-to resource for definitions. Therefore, let us look at what this esteemed dictionary says about “student.” As a noun, it means, “A person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education,” with some variations such as “A school pupil” and “A person who takes an interest in a particular subject” (Oxford Dictionaries). As a modifier, the word is “Denoting someone who is studying in order to enter a particular profession” (Oxford Dictionaries). As you might have noticed, the term is broad, and becoming a student is a rather easy thing to do. All we need to do is say that we are studying a certain subject.
Now, we will start digging into how the word was formed. It all began with the Latin word studens, which was a present participle of the word studere (to study). This term eventually moved onto Old French in the form of estudiant, which literally means “student” in the way we know it now. So, basically, it began as a present participle, and became a noun all of its own (Wiktionary).
The term “student” has been notoriously hard to define even though it is such a commonly used word. This is because no one can actually master a subject, so we are continuously students. We cannot reach the limit of any subject, as knowledge is not only expanding, but it is also seemingly infinite—even computers cannot process all the information available at any present time. This means we can never claim to be outside of “studenthood,” despite our accolades, degrees, and status within a certain discipline. This makes even the most highly recognized person within a particular field a student. They are on equal terms with people learning within educational institutions. However, it may be said they have achieved a certain level of knowledge—though mastery cannot be accurately claimed. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.”
Also, being a student implies a certain humility. If you have a large ego, it would be difficult for you to be considered a student. In order to study and to learn, you have to be able to accept, absorb, and integrate new information in your brain. The know-it-alls of this world are often not seen as students, even if they are enrolled in a university.
Even teachers can be considered students. Teachers often say they learn from their students in the subject they know best. In addition, teachers are known to continually study and innovate within their discipline. This means they are in a sense students too.
The act of curiosity is sometimes cited as a way of being a student. As American author Og Mandino said, “Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” Many issues arise in this world because of narrow mindedness, and being a student is seen as being beneficial for one’s character and society as a whole. What is a student if not someone who is curious about life and how it works?
The term “student” is usually defined as someone who studies in any shape or form. The word can be employed as a noun or a modifier, but began as a present participle in Latin, where it moved onto Old French as a noun. However, “student” can also be used as a philosophical term denoting curiosity, humbleness, and the acceptance of the vastness of knowledge.
“Student | Definition of Student in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/student.
“Student.” Servent – Wiktionary, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/student.
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