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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Burn is a very common word in modern english. Burn is most commonly used as a verb and means to suffer destruction, injury, change of structure or properties from contact with fire (1). Burn is used to describe situations where something or someone is reduced to ashes by fire (1). In a similar context it can also be used to describe something or someone who has been scorched or charred (1). This meaning extends to food and in regular day to day happenings the use of burn in this context can be extended to include food being spoiled by extended exposure to heat (1). This word can be used to imply varied version of the same meaning such as to burn to, to burn away and burn out (1). To burn to is defined as “to adhere to by burning” and to burn away is defined as “to be gradually dissipated or consumed by burning” (1). Burn out is defined by Oxford English Dictionary as “complete destruction by fire” (1). 

In medical terms, burn causes tissue damage by any of the following agents: heat, cold, chemicals, electricity, ultraviolet light or nuclear radiation (2). As a result of a burn, swelling and blistering can occur (2). Moreover, risk of bacterial infection increases (2). Burn can cause blood vessel damage leading to loss of plasma and eventually leading the body to a state of severe shock (2). Medical professionals rate burns into three categories. First degree burns are minor burns that affects only the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin (2). Second degree burns affects the layer underneath the epidermis called the dermis (2). The most severe burn, third degree burn has a very negative affect on the skin and damages past the skin often into the tissue beneath it (2). 

The modern version of the verb burn has its root going back to two different verbs. One of the root of the word is brinnan, a gothic word (1). The other root is also a gothic word brannjan (1)According to Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of burn can be traced back to c1225. (1) 

There are many other uses of burn as verbs and nouns. In the environmental sector, burn refers to a technique that is applied to a piece of land to clear off the vegetation by setting fire on it (3). This is done to allow for new growth as well as improving soil fertility (3). (A dictionary of environment and conservation)

A spring, a fountain or a river was referred to as burn (in the noun form) in old english (1). 
Another less common use of burn is as the contracted form of burden. “Burn-rope”, noun, is derived from this form of burn (1). Burn-rope is used to describe a rope that is used for carrying a burden (1). 

  1. Oxford English Dictionary Online. (Oxford University Press) “Burn”. Accessed November 18th, 2012. http://www.oed.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/Entry/25028?rskey=4c9SLn&result=4&isAdvanced=false#eid
  2. Martin, Elizabeth and McFerran, Tanya. A Dictionary of Nursing. (Oxford University Press) “Burn”. Accessed November 18th, 2012. http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780199211777.001.0001/acref-9780199211777
  3. Park, Chris. A dictionary of environment and conservation (Oxford University Press) “Burn”. Accessed November 18th, 2012. http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780198609957.001.0001/acref-9780198609957-e-1021?rskey=87ypcn&result=3&q=burn

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