Whenever it’s a festive season or any special personal event like birthday or anniversary or mother’s day, they are all gift giving time. We all give presents to our loved ones on these days. Wait…do we give presents or do we give gifts? Are they synonymous? Or is it just made so that children can ask for toys & stuff in more ways than one?
Well, in today’s English language they may be synonymous words, but you would be surprised to find how different the origin of these words are. That’s cause languages don’t develop in a linear mathematical fashion. It’s more complicated than that. They take words from other languages & sources, as well as, give words to other languages. They evolve over thousands of years.
Coming back to English language- like all Indo-European languages, the true source of words in English are hidden in the most ancient language of Indo-European family- Sanskrit. “Gabhasti” is a Sanskrit word from which both words “gift” & “habit” emerged through time in English language. Gift originated from a long line of evolution starting from the Proto-Indo-European word “ghabh,” whose base is in the Sanskrit word. “Gabhasti” basically means hand or rather forearm. In the days of Old English gift literally meant dowry or marriage payment. Only in the 14th century did it take its present meaning.
Present also has Indo-European roots. When the Old French speaking Normans from Normandy (in present day France) invaded England in 1066, they brought in a host of new words into the English language including beef (cooked cow meat), pork (cooked pig meat) & present. In the Old French it was used in a phrase “metre en present” meaning “to offer in the presence of”. It only became synonymous with the word gift more than 250 years later in the 14th century. Of course, the use of present in the meaning of “the present time” came up much later in the 16th century. But that’s a different story.
But wait that’s not just where the story ends. If you think it’s weird for gift to have to 2 words to describe it here’s an entire list, each with more longer & boring stories –
donation, offering, contribution, handout, presentation, bestowal, largesse,alms, charity, bonus, award, premium, bounty, boon, favour, bequest, legacy,inheritance, settlement, subsidy, grant, endowment, benefaction, tipgratuity, baksheesh, giving, pourboire, freebie, perk, prezzie, sweetener, perquisite, lagniappe, succor, potlatch, bonhomie, beneficence.
But the only fact that truly matters is everybody loves to get one, no matter what you call it & whether there is an occasion or not. A touch of surprise also brings a smile in everyone’s face. But for that one had to go out for gift shopping. Nowadays, even that’s not a problem. With all these online gift delivering sites like Florist Xpress, you can leave your near & dear ones open-mouthed with joy & surprise. All of it with just a few clicks of the mouse.