The term “individual” comes from the Latin word “individuus,” which means “indivisible” or “inseparable.” This is derived from the Latin roots “in-” meaning “not” and “dividere,” meaning “to divide.”

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The PIE root “*dwe-” means “to divide” or “to separate.”

2. Latin

From the PIE root, the Latin word “dividere” developed, meaning “to divide.” The adjective “individuus” combines “in-” (not) and “dividere” (to divide), meaning “indivisible” or “inseparable.” The noun “individualis” signifies something that pertains to an indivisible entity.

3. Old French (c. 9th to 14th century CE)

The Latin term “individuus” evolved into Old French “individual,” meaning “a single being or thing.”

4. Middle English (c. 11th to 15th century CE)

The Old French “individual” was adopted into Middle English as “individual,” meaning “a single being or entity.”

5. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

The term “individual” evolved into its current form and pronunciation, retaining the meaning of “a single human being as distinct from a group, class, or family.”

Phonetic Evolution

Over time, the pronunciation of “individual” has remained relatively stable from Middle English to Modern English.

Usage Examples

  • “Individual is often used to describe a single human being distinct from a group.”
  • “Another example of ‘individual’ in a sentence is ‘Each individual has unique talents and abilities.'”

Cultural or Historical Notes

The development of the word “individual” was significantly influenced by cultural and intellectual movements that emphasize personal identity, autonomy, and self-expression, such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern democratic societies.

The word “individual” reflects the concept of being a unique and distinct entity, emphasizing the importance of personal identity and autonomy in human cognition and social structures.