<% PageDepartmentID = "1" %> Doctoral Colloquium: Etymology of "Mentor" and "Disciple/Discipline"
Etymology of "Mentor" and "Disciple/Discipline"
English 591, Doctoral Colloquium
This page contains materials intended to facilitate class discussion (excerpts from readings, outlines of issues, links to resources, etc.). The materials are not necessarily the same as the instructor's teaching notes and are not designed to represent a full exposition or argument. This page is subject to revision as the instructor finalizes preparation. (Last revised 10/8/04 )

Etymology of "Mentor"

American Heritage Dictionary:

The word mentor is an example of the way in which the great works of literature live on without our knowing it. The word has recently gained currency in the professional world, where it is thought to be a good idea to have a mentor, a wise and trusted counselor, guiding one's career, preferably in the upper reaches of the organization. We owe this word to the more heroic age of Homer, in whose Odyssey Mentor is the trusted friend of Odysseus left in charge of the household during Odysseus's absence. More important for our usage of the word mentor, Athena disguised as Mentor guides Odysseus's son Telemachus in his search for his father. Fénelon in his romance Télémaque (1699) emphasized Mentor as a character, and so it was that in French (1749) and English (1750) mentor, going back through Latin to a Greek name, became a common noun meaning “ wise counselor, ” first recorded in 1750. Mentor is an appropriate name for such a person because it probably meant “ adviser” in Greek and comes from the Indo-European root men- , meaning “ to think. ”


[< French mentor (1735 in sense 2 in a book title, 1749 in sense ‘guide, adviser’) < Mentor, the name of a character in F. de S. de la Mothe-Fénelon's Les Aventures de Télémaque (1699), after ancient Greek , the name of a character in the Odyssey, in whose likeness Athena appears to Telemachus and acts as his guide and adviser. Cf. German Mentor (1725 in sense ‘court tutor, adviser’ in a book title), Italian mentore (a1789), Spanish mentor (1785 in a book title).
        N.E.D. (1906) notes that the emphasis Fénelon places on the role of Mentor as a counsellor is key to the currency of this word in English and French. Fénelon's work was one of the most popular political novels of its time, and had been translated into English by 1699-1700, German by 1700, and Italian by 1719: numerous English adaptations in prose, verse, and drama appeared in the course of the 18th cent., including a translation by Smollett.
        The ancient Greek name is recorded as a historical personal name in the 4th cent. It may be cognate with MIND n.1]

Etymology of "Disciple," "Discipline"

American Heritage Dictionary:

dis•ci•ple ( . . . ) n. 1. a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy. 2. Often Disciple One of the 12 original followers of Jesus. 3. Disciple A member of the Disciples of Christ. [Middle English from Old English discipul and from Old French desciple both from Latin discipulus pupil from discere to learn; See dek- in Indo-European Roots.] dis•ci’ple•ship’ n.

dek- . Important derivatives are: decent doctor doctrine document dogma paradox decorate dainty dignity disdain indignant disciple discipline

Page Updated: Friday, October 8, 2004 12:40 PM