Example Of Etiology Of The Word “Family” Essay
The family unit is a fundamental unit of the society. It is the basic unit of the interactions within any social system. Therefore, the understanding of the family is essential comprehend the working of all types of a society. A family is traditionally considered a social unit comprising of parents, their children and relatives. However, is blood relation only enough to define family? This paper looks in depth at the various definitions of the word family. The etiology of the word “family” is examined with emphasis on the similarity across other languages. The definition of family in the modern complex society is examined with scrutiny being given to the various variables that model the present day society. Finally, the nature of the definition of the family being beyond blood ties is illustrated.
Keywords: family, relatives, ancestor, bloodline, society, relationship, love
The family unit has been an essential part of the society since the ancient times. Families provide an avenue through which the majority of us enter the world. Due to this reason, it is considered as the building block of a functioning social system. The definitions of the word family are numerous and varied in their meaning and context. Over a long time, the conventional understanding of a family has been a father, mother and children and their relatives. However, with time, the social dynamics of the family units have changed greatly. There are variables like divorce in marriages, adoption of children, surrogate motherhood, foster parenting, same sex marriages and the care of orphaned children by their kinfolk. All these dynamics have changed the meaning of family, as we traditionally know it. Some units that can be considered families today lack some of the elements that are traditionally held to be the components of a complete family. The definition of a family in the modern times goes beyond blood relations.
The roots of the word family can be traced back to the Latin language. The word is derived from the Latin word familia that means household or household and its servants. The word familia itself originated from a different Latin word farmulus. This term was originally used to refer to the servants until 1667 when it was used to refer to the complete social unit in the house consisting of the parents, their children, their relatives and the servants in the house. Other languages in the world derive their version of the word family from this Latin word. For instance, familia in Spanish, familia in Portuguese, familie in German, familie in Afrikaans, famille in French and famiglia in Italian.
Definitions of the word “family”
Many definitions for the word family exist and they differ in their contextual meaning. For instance, the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition of a family as a social unit that comprises of a group of individuals who live under a single roof and under the leadership of a single person in charge. In other words, this means that any random combination living under one roof qualifies to be a family provided they are under the leadership of one person. Simply put, this means that the ticket to membership of a family is through the sharing of the same dwelling place. It is not clear what makes people members of a family other than dwelling in the same space, which is an ambiguous proposition.
While this definition may hold for the conventional understanding of a family, it confers the status of a family to units that are fundamentally not a family. For instance, where unrelated people live under the same roof and are under the leadership of one head, they are conferred the family status even when they do not have any relationship. It also leaves out some units that are a family. For instance, where members of a family do not live under one roof then this definition only recognizes the members who live under one roof. The other members are not part of this family merely by not sharing the same roof.
Alternative definitions are given by the oxford dictionary, which first defines family as a social unit that consists of two parents and their children dwelling together. It also provides the second definition of the word family as a unit consisting of people who are associated by being blood relatives or through marriage. These definitions are quite satisfying to the conventional understanding of the family. They adequately account for relationships that bind members into a single unit referred to as a family. According to these definitions, members of a family are linked by sharing the same bloodline or through marriages that bind people from different social backgrounds into a single unit. It is therefore in order to infer that the ticket to membership is through birth or through marriage.
While the definition by the oxford dictionary is more comprehensive and more satisfying than the definition by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is still deficient in addressing the modern day developments in the structure and the meaning of the word family. In the present time the relationship by blood or marriage are not the only elements that bind people into a family. A lot more goes into the making of a family. Therefore, no single definition of the word marriage is exclusively correct.
The definition of the word family means different things to different people depending on the culture, the level of relationship and the environment. The study of the ancient societies through anthropology has shown that the relationships in the family units differed from what the world today experiences. The culture, experiences and environment of the time only facilitated the family units of the time. Dwelling in the same ecological niche was essential during this time to form a family unit because it helped to provide the much-needed security and in the gathering of food.
The roles of different sexes in the society today are different. The social groups in which humans can identify with are numerous. These include education, religion, sports and politics. This has brought forth a novel way of looking at the family. By looking at the family as the basis of the society, we realize that various arrangements of social groups are indeed families. A family therefore becomes a group of people who share a common interest and love and care for each other. This way, the alumni of an academic institution can be said to be a family. In addition, members of the same wing in the political arena are also members of the same family. In the same way, members of the same religion are members of one large family.
As the famous German scholar, Johann Schiller put it, “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons” (Kindle, 43). This means that marriage should not limit our place in the fast society and the bonds that can be formed within the social circles. We are all part of one large family. It is the sense of belonging and the acts of love, kindness and care for each other that make us a family. A family goes beyond the blood relations. It is the strong feelings of care, love and concern for our fellow humans that make us a family. The human race is one family going by this understanding.
While this way of re-looking at the definition of the family is novel to the society, it is the future of the meaning of family. The advances in information sharing abilities through internet technology have also created different facets of family (OECD, 11-16). Many online social communities interact and develop social ties within the realm if the worldwide web to a level of relationship that is even more intense than that displayed by blood relations. While many people think that the advent of the internet is killing the family, as we know it, this is a blessing in disguise.
Rather than restricting us in a small space of relationship, the internet opens up the traditional family to more like-minded people. It helps us to experience feelings that we did not experience before. It makes our relationships rich and compensates for the weaknesses of our immediate family members. This, in fact, helps us to strengthen the relationships around the traditional family unit rather than break it (OECD, 11-16).
The ability of people with absolutely no blood relations to form close relationships, care, and love one another as members of the same “family” is enough proof that the definition of the word family goes beyond blood ties. It is the heart of the members of the social unit and the mutual feelings of care and love for one another that make them members of the same family, whether they share blood relations or not.
This way of viewing the family removes the bottlenecks that prevent us from viewing ourselves as members of the human family. It accounts for the modern developments in the social dynamics of the family. For instance, while traditionally a divorce meant the breaking of a marriage and remarriage meant the creation of a new family, in the present day divorce could be viewed as the breaking of a marriage but the care and concern remains, therefore, even after the divorce, members remain as a family. In fact, the remarriage of either of the partners from the first marriage acts to expand the family. The result of this is cohesion and understanding in the society.
In conclusion, it is apparent that the definition of family has gone through a lot of transformation to where it is in the present day. While it was initially restricted to the parents and their children or ancestors and their descendants, the family unit today is more comprehensive and inclusive. The family unit goes beyond the relationship by the bloodline and marriage. Instead, family today is defined by the existence of love and care between members of the society with common interest regardless of whether they have any blood relations or not. This does not nullify the traditional concept of the family as a social unit whose members are linked by blood, but it expands the understanding of family to be beyond the blood relations.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America. What is a Family? . 2009. 25 January 2015 <http://familyplus.bgca.org/YourFamily/EffectiveParenting/WhatisaFamily/Pages/default.aspx>.
Harper, Douglas. Family - Online Etymology Dictionary. 2014. 25 January 2015 <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=family>.
Jacobson, Arthur Lee. Family. 2015. 25 January 2015 <http://www.arthurleej.com/e-family.html>.
Kindle, Diana. German Wisdom: Humorous, inspirational and thought-provoking quotes by famous Germans . Westhoff Publishing, 2014.
merriam-webster.com. family. 2015. 25 January 2015 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/family>.
OECD. THE FUTURE OF FAMILIES TO 2030. OECD InternatIonal Futures programme, 2011.
Oxford Dictionary. Definition of family in English:. 2015. 25 January 2015 <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/family>.
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