Nature originates from the Latin word nāturā, meaning birth.1 The earliest use of the word is Anglo-Norman and Old French Origin and relates to the concept of birth1. It was used to describe a force that creates and maintains the universe or gives qualities to define objects. However the first recorded use of the word, dating back to approximately 1275, focuses more on the physical quality of a being and was used in descriptions of a body’s constitution1. From around 1390, writers used nature, sometimes poetically, to describe female genitals, menstrual discharge or semen1. To writers, this use of the word acted as a substitute for being too explicit in their descriptions of sexual affairs. After 1390, nature began to be used to refer to both mental and physical driving forces1. For instance, it may refer to a person’s necessary requirements as to function or other bodily needs. Similar to the physical definition of nature, this form of the word acted as a short but ambiguous substitute in referring to particular physical and mental needs. Following this, nature begins to be used solely to focus on the inherent dispositions and forces within a being. Specifically, this definition of the word is more often applied to human beings, as in human nature. Human nature is frequently used in nature versus nurture debates or when reasoning for human phenomena traces back to a biological origin. This form of the word is also used by people when commenting on the attitude or personality of another person such as in L. Hellman’s Pentimento: “That kind of talk was a part of her Catholic convert nature.”1 On occasion, human nature is also used as the justification or explanation of an occurrence. Also originating from around 1390, nature was defined as the phenomena of the physical world. “The Nagara River is a symbol of disappearing nature” from the Japan Times is an example of such usage of the word1. As demonstrated by the example, this usage of nature typically refers to non-human phenomena. Nature may also be used, in a broad sense, to refer to the world or the cosmos, which is generally used when describing or examining the grand scheme of things. Moreover, nature may also be used as a verb when creating applying a quality characteristic onto a subject such as in S. Hawes’s pastime of pleasure: “that dame Nature naturing had made All thinge to grow to theyr fortitude.” 2 Overall, nature is used to impose the physical or mental qualities upon a subject as in an act of creation or to make reference to the world and its phenomena.
1. "nature, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://oed.com/view/Entry/125353?rskey=4neqc8&result=1#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).
2. "nature, v1.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://oed.com/view/Entry/125354?rskey=4neqc8&result=2#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).