Priority.. or not priority

priorityDid you all listen to some VERY interesting etymology at our last meeting? Or are some of you now saying “some what…???”!

Well, I was FASCINATED by Anya’s speech on “priority” and the origins she gave us behind the word (the etymology of the word), rendering the word itself.. umm.. a ‘non’ word! Who’d have ‘thunk’ it!!!

I did a little quick search to see if I could paste here a little reminder without actually asking Anya to past in her speech –

(taken from

Please help me with the origin and subsequent use of the word priority. I heard the chairman of ServiceMaster Corp. say that we did not use priority in its plural form until the 20th century. I am curious (1) if that is true and (2) how the word was originally used. In other words, if it is true that the plural form of the word originated in the 20th century, then prior to that time was the thought that there was only a single priority and not multiple priorities?

The word priority first entered English in the 14th century from Old French priorite, which itself came from Medieval Latin prioritatem or prioritas, from Latin prior `first.’ Though I have been unable to find reference to the initial usage of the plural form, priorities, it is not unlikely that priority remained unpluralized until the 20th century. After all, one can reason that there can be only one `first;’ hence, there was no need to pluralize priority. In the busy world of the 20th century, however, we all have many `firsts’ or priorities.

After such an awakening speech I challenge you all to consider exactly what you are doing, the next time you find yourself “prioritising” tasks! Ask yourself what Anya asked all – can you pluralise 1?? And if you can, do you really want to?

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