The Origin of the Word "Relationship"
By Bryan Caplan
To my ears, the word “relationship” has long sounded like psycho-babble invented circa 1950. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the 19th-century discussing their “relationships.”
Tonight I decided to finally investigate my hypothesis. I was almost dead on: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “relationship” first appeared in 1744, but was not applied “specifically of romantic or sexual relationships” until 1944. I’m still unclear on when the term expanded to encompass all enduring social ties – it feels like it happened in the 70s, but I’m not quite old enough to remember.
The weird thing is that I can’t think of any old-fashioned synonym. Can traditional societies get by with “kinsman,” “friend,” “ally,” and the like without needing any broader category? Or what?