In English we have the word “worth” which means “having a value, deserving of”. The official etymology of this word says that it comes from Middle English “worth”, from Old English “weorþ”, from Proto-Germanic “*werþaz” meaning “worthy, valuable”. Etymology for the reconstructed Proto-Germanic root “werþaz” is unclear. Officially it comes from “Pre-Germanic” root “*wértos”, probably derived from Proto-Indo-European “*wert-“ (“to turn”) through a meaning of “exchange”, a development also seen in Celtic.
However I believe that the the original root of this word could be Slavic word “vredan“. The word “vredan” means both “hardworking, industrious, diligent” and “valuable”. I believe that originally it was applied to both cattle and people, family members, slaves, serfs, who in the past were both only valuable if they were hardworking….Otherwise they were not “worth”, deserving of being fed and kept alive…They had no value. This is where the original meaning of “exchange” came from and was “hard work for life”. Only later, when people started trading, the worth of people and cattle started to be expressed in “things you can get for hard working people and cattle” and only then the word “worth” started being used to mean “value” of anything that can be exchanged.
But, the most common opinion in linguistic circles is that Germanic and Slavic words are cognates and that the Slavic word is “and early, pre 8th century borrowing from Germanic languages”. In this case the meaning of the Slavic word “vredan” would come from “verd” + “dan” = “worth” + “given” = “in exchange” + “given” = “value”…But this does not explain the meaning “hard working, industrious, diligent” which the word “vredan” also carries…
What do you think?
O yea, and how much are you “worth”? Unfortunately, not much has changed in the world since this word was coined. Except that today you are not kept alive by your owners by them giving you food and shelter. Today they give you money to buy food and shelter. If you are “vredan” (worthy – valuable because of being hardworking, industrious, diligent)… 🙂