We see it every day when we look into someone’s eyes, yet we never think twice about where it came from. Honestly, how many words do we use every day and never consider what the words actually mean? It is incredible. I happen to have a fascination with the human eye. I think it is the most incredible part of God’s creation. But that is for another time. For now, let me introduce you to one, simple part: the pupil.
The pupil is the black center of your eye with which light shines through in order to reach the light receptors at the back of the eye. Without it – and the rest of the complex structure of the eye – we would not be able to see. The word pupil comes from the Latin pupilla meaning “little girl-doll” and pupa meaning “girl or doll”. This meaning comes from the reflection seen in the eye. If you think about it, if you were to look into another’s eyes, you would see a mirror image of yourself. Yet that image would be very small, like a child. Thus it only makes sense to call that a “little girl” or “child”. In the Greek, the word was kore which meant “girl” but was also used to identify a “doll” or the “middle of the eye”. In the 1300’s, it was brought into the English language from the Latin to mean “the center of the eye”. The French word at this time was spelled pupille. The late 1300’s definition was a ‘”student” or an “orphan child or ward that one was responsible for”. As of the 1500’s, it was also used to nickname a baby. In the 1600’s, it could be used to mean “to look lovingly into someone’s eyes”. Thus pupil gained usage for a student, the center of the eye, an orphan or child that one looks after, as well as looking into a lover’s eyes. The most common use today is, however, describing the center of the eye. Like I mentioned before, this is a vital part of the eye. As you might know, there is a common term to refer to the pupil: the apple of the eye. The Bible is the first place where this phrase is used. Interestingly enough, the term “apple of my eye” in the Hebrew does relate to the Greek and Latin words meaning “little person”. Solomon instructs the reader to keep these commands “as the apple of your eye”, meaning to keep the close and protect them. In the Psalms, David asks God to keep and protect him “As the apple of Your eye”. And later in Zechariah, God calls His children the apple of His eye. This means that He cares for us with special care. We are His ward, we need to be protected, we are His children. We keep His commands safe, and He keeps us safe as if we are the apple of His eye.
Ever thought the word pupil could mean so much? You have to admit, it is pretty special. Now I know that you’ll never look into your or someone else’s eyes the same way again. When you think about it, each of us are little “reflections” of God, as we are made in His image. We are little students learning how to walk in the right ways. We are orphans looking for a loving Father to care for us. We are the apple of His eye, and the most incredible part of His creation (yes, even more than the eye itself…). When God looks at us, all He sees is love and compassion. Remember that the next time you look at someone, or yourself. And remember the incredible etymology of the word pupil. I mean it. Random bits of trivia, as my brother calls it, can be very useful.
I know I divulged a bit from the etymology. I just love how all of creation reflects God. Etymology never ceases to amaze me, and I hope it is interesting to you as well.
As with anything I discuss concerning etymology, these words and snippets of definitions came from the Oxford English dictionary. However, all is my own work.