Etymology of Education

Education is, according to Merriam-Webster, the process of teaching one or more individuals, usually in college or school or university. Interestingly enough, the question what is education is a very deep one.

One of the most common errors that people make is that they confuse education with schooling.

Schooling is simply education you received at school (and if you’re into horse racing, the obstacles in the course are called schooling fences).

The use of the word schooling in this sense has to do with training an animal (typically a horse).

There is no humanity (not as we know it, anyway) without education. Even the most primitive tribes today employ some method of education to teach their fellow tribesmen and tribeswomen how to fish or use a spear.

Latin has a fair amount of words related to education, training, instruction, schooling, etc.

In alphabetic order, all of these have something to do with education: cultus, disciplina, doctrina, eruditio, institutio, ineruditio.

The root of the word education, however, lies somewhere else:


The first written record of the word education is found in the 1530s. It comes from the Latin educare (to educate, to train, to rear, to bring up) as well as the words educatio and educationis, which signify bringing up or rearing.

The word for education in Middle French is éducation.

Educare: E + DucareEducare is a combination of the words e (out) and ducare (lead, drawing), or drawing out. Most modern etymologists agree that this implied meaning is not a misinterpretation, and that drawing out is indeed the true meaning of educare.

Education in Spanish is educación; in Portuguese: educação; in Italian: educazione.


de Vaan, Michiel. Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages. Brill, 2008.