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Eytomology Everyday
Subsection: Word of the Day
Tags: cloud, sky, nature, technology, linguistic

The origin of the word ‘cloud’ has been traced back to the 1300s when the usage of Middle English was predominant. The Old English word ‘clud’ means ‘mass of rock, hill’ and gradually evolved as the word ‘cloud’ that is now used to refer to the visible white clots of evaporated water suspended in the sky.


The word ‘cloud’ is also presumed to be a marriage between the Old English word ‘clud’ and the Modern English word ‘clot’. It is the coming together of ‘clud’ implying the pertinence of natural forces and ‘clot’ describing the visually perceptible aspects of a cloud that make it appear like a randomly put-together lump in the sky.


The word ‘clud’ is closely related to another word from the same linguistic period. The said word is ‘clod’ and it means clay. The word ‘clud’ seems an obvious extension of the word ‘clod’ which would lead ‘clud’ to mean mass of rock or hill which is essentially an accumulation of clay (again, referred to in Old and Middle English as ‘clod’). These shifts in pronunciations and the encroachment of word definitions are a likely result of the Great Vowel Shift. This phenomenon in linguistic history is how the standardisation of spellings came into being and also why spellings often differ from their pronunciations in the English language. For instance, the ea in break and freak are pronounced differently which might seem arbitrary but this ambiguity is the established standard.


Coming back to the etymology of cloud, the recurrence of similar sounding words ‘clud’ and ‘clod’ might cloud your comprehension which takes us to another profound manner in which the word cloud is used today. The word cloud is used as a verb which implies the blurring or distorting of something to reduce clarity. It is a wise exhibit of linguistic imagination in which the concept of a specific natural entity is employed to indicate an abstract occurrence.


The visuals of a cloud seem to have a significant impact on its nomenclature. Whether it is the word ‘clot’ mixing up with another word to signify the lumpy clouds or the word cloud itself being used as a verb or the employment of the concept of cloud in cloud computing.


The word cloud has established itself in a new meaning after the digital revolution. Nearly all our quotidian functionalities are based on cloud computing. It refers to the on-demand availability of data storage and other computer system resources without the manager actively managing or storing them. These clouds are sets of data stored sporadically in locations that one cannot physically access.


‘Cloud’, as a word, is used as a metaphor for the computing system. The conventional cloud and the new technological cloud are both physically inaccessible but their functionality is central to the natural and digital world respectively.


From this perspective and more, the etymology and evolution of the word cloud make space for an interesting area of linguistic pondering.