Entries linking to pathway
Old English paþ, pæþ "narrow passageway or route across land, a track worn by the feet of people or animals treading it," from West Germanic *patha- (source also of Old Frisian path, Middle Dutch pat, Dutch pad, Old High German pfad, German Pfad "path"), a word of uncertain origin, not attested in Old Norse or Gothic.
The original initial -p- in a Germanic word is an etymological puzzle. Don Ringe ("From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic," Oxford 2006), reflecting an old theory, describes it as "An obvious loan from Iranian ..., clearly borrowed after Grimm's Law had run its course." Watkins says the word is "probably borrowed (? via Scythian) from Iranian *path-," from PIE root *pent- "to tread, go, pass" (source of Avestan patha "way;" see find (v.)), but this is too much of a stretch for OED and others. In Scotland and Northern England, commonly a steep ascent of a hill or in a road.
Old English weg "road, path; course of travel; room, space, freedom of movement;" also, figuratively, "course of life" especially, in plural, "habits of life" as regards moral, ethical, or spiritual choices, from Proto-Germanic *wega- "course of travel, way" (source also of Old Saxon, Dutch weg, Old Norse vegr, Old Frisian wei, Old High German weg, German Weg, Gothic wigs "way"), from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle."
From c. 1300 as "manner in which something occurs." Adverbial constructions attested since Middle English include this way "in this direction," that way "in that direction," both from late 15c.; out of the way "remote" (c. 1300). In the way "so placed as to impede" is from 1560s.
From the "course of life" sense comes way of life (c. 1600), get (or have) one's way (1590s), have it (one's) way (1709). From the "course of travel" sense comes the figurative go separate ways (1837); one way or (the) other (1550s); have it both ways (1847); and the figurative sense of come a long way (1922).
Adverbial phrase all the way "completely, to conclusion" is by 1915; sexual sense implied by 1924. Make way is from c. 1200. Ways and means "resources at a person's disposal" is attested from early 15c. (with mean (n.)). Way out "means of exit" is from 1926. Encouragement phrase way to go is short for that's the way to go.
updated on June 29, 2012