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Wednesday, November 21, 2012



1.     That which is thus handed down; a statement, belief, or practice transmitted (esp. orally) from generation to generation.

 c1380   Wyclif Wks. (1880) 392   I-bounden oonly by a posityue lawe or a tradycion þat þai han hem sijlfe made.


The origin of the word stems from the Latin term traditionem, from traditus, the past participle of trader which means “to deliver or hand over”, trans meaning “across” and dare “to give”.

The etymology of translate is closely linked to that of the word treason. Treason is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the action of betraying; betraying the trust undertaken by or reposed in any one; breach of faith, treacherous action, treachery”. First used c1225, derived from the French word traison, which is now in Modern French terms, trahison. Of which, the Old French term traison drew influence from the verb trair, which means “to betray”. Treason is a handing over, delivery or surrender of information and statements, whereas tradition is the delivery of beliefs, legends and customs from generation to generation.

In the past, traditions were passed on to succeeding generations solely by oral methods and word of mouth. This resulted in the stories and folklore being manifested in many different forms such as folktales, ballads, songs and chants. In Ancient Greece, the epic tales of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were originally told through oral tradition. Homer sang his tales and through the creation of musical literature and lyrical poetry other Greeks were able to memorize and continue to retell these epic tales to succeeding generations. As the tales were told it was common for the storytellers to improvise and alter the story to better suit the mood of the audience, while still maintaining the main themes and morals. As a result of the liberties taken by the storytellers, it is impossible to know how far these tales have strayed from the original. It is through the maintaining of tradition and the translation of myths into songs and chants that we have a clearer understanding of Ancient Greek culture today.

Tradition is the preservation of one’s cultures and beliefs. They may undergo major or minor changes, however they still retain the base principle and moral that existed generations ago. Traditions are long-standing customs that have been established by our predecessors and generally accepted because of their permanence in society. Though there may be no legal constraints that compel one to follow tradition, the precedence of customs deeply rooted within our morals and society are reason enough for people to comply.


It is a tradition in our household to have dinner at my grandparents’ home every Christmas.


[1] "treason, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/205355?rskey=kpPBXA&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 20, 2012).

[2] "tradition, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/204302?rskey=xmmRXY&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 15, 2012).

[3] Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History, (James Currey Publishers, 1985)http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/culture/oral-traditions.html (accessed November 15, 2012), 27-28.

[4] Walter Englert, "The Iliad," HUM110 Iliad (blog), http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/iliad.html.


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