The study of the origin of words. It has influenced exegesis, especially of the OT. It has sometimes been assumed that the root meaning of a verb in Hebrew, or a related Semitic language, was a clue to its meaning in the Bible, and that it was even possible to build a doctrinal structure on this basis. But it thus tended to ignore the changes made in the course of time by other (e.g. Hellenistic) cultures in the meaning of words and to overlook the contexts in which they were used.

Etymology, in the sense of the study of the formation of words, appears in the NT at Matt. 1: 21, where the name Jesus, the Greek equivalent of Hebrew Joshua (= Yahweh saves) is explained as ‘he will save his people from their sins’.