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FAQ: The Etymology of Erowid
What does the word Erowid mean?
Citation:   Erowid. "Etymology of Erowid". Erowid Extracts. Dec 2001;2:3.
We are frequently asked where the name 'Erowid' comes from. In 1995, as we were laying the foundation for the Erowid website, we needed a name that would encompass the work we wanted to do that would be unique and recognizable.

We wanted a name that was positive, and hopeful, while also invoking the grounding forces of human knowledge. It took us months of active work to come up with a name which seemed to fit the bill.

Erowid is a linguistic construction of roots taken from Proto-Indo-European. Indo- European is a grouping of languages which share a large number of common words and features and are thought to share a single parent. This grouping includes most European languages, Sanskrit, Persian, and others. 'Proto' Indo-European is a theoretical parent language made up of a collection of the roots and words which are shared between many of the existing Indo-European languages.

Er (ert, erd) comes from the root for Earth, with the alternate meanings of ground/ dirt and the world. Er is also the root of Old English 'to be' or 'exist' still evident in the word 'are'. Less obviously, Er is an ancient precursor for 'arise' / 'be born' in such words as origin and arise.

Wid (wit, weid, wis, vis) comes from the root for Knowledge / Wisdom and 'to see'. This root can be seen in words like wisdom, wit, and the Sanskrit vedah. Wid is also the root for words like review, vision, idea, and druid ('tree-knower').

The 'O' holds the two roots together, making the word more mellifluous, while also suggesting the Greek spirit Eros, who was associated with love, desire, and life.

The simplest 'translation' of Erowid is 'Earth Wisdom' or the 'Knowledge of Existence', but the word is intended to evoke a number of related ideas and connotations. Erowid alludes to a sense of living knowledge which is inherent to the world: a sort of universal birthright. It suggests wisdom which arises out of the fabric of existence and love of knowledge and learning.

Know Your Source.

Pronunciation: Many people have asked over the years how to pronounce "Erowid". Overall, it is an assemblage of Indo-European roots and if you speak any similar language, however you pronounce it is 'correct'. We pronounce it as "AIR - oh - wid" (\ ˈer-ō-wid \ Using Merriam-Webster's phonetic system). We have heard it said many ways, with stress on any of the three syllables.

See Calvert Watkins American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots:
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Dec 2001 - Erowid - from Erowid Extracts Dec 2001.
  • v1.1 - Mar 17, 2019 - Erowid - Added pronunciation section.