It’s time for another article highlighting an author, and this time the choice is Val Tobin.

About Author Val Tobin

A multi-genre author, Val has written books ranging from supernatural thrillers, paranormal romance, romantic suspense to mystery and suspense, and even horror. I have chosen the title of one of her award-winning books, Injury, for today’s word exploration.

Injury by Val Tobin Awarded Gold and Silver


It’s interesting to think about what ‘injury’ actually means. We think of it as hurt or damage, perhaps to a person; an injury playing sport, a serious head injury following a car accident, and so forth. But of course, it also has a legal sense, a violation of rights that may not incude any bodily harm.

It’s worth remembering this second usage as we look into the origin of our word. Compared to some, it does not measure an enormously long history in the English language,, having entered it some time during the late fourteenth century. It came with the meaning of harm, but also of specific injury.

Let’s take a look at an example from Chaucer from 1390:

[…] oughten haue greet repentaunce of the iniurie of the wrong that they hadden doon.

([…] ought to greatly repent of the injury caused by the wrong that they had done.)

You can see that in this example, the form of our word is iniurie, although in other contemporary texts, it may also appear as injurie.

It was taken from Anglo-French injurie, which, rather than specific bodily harm, meant ‘wrongful action’. You see now why I said to hold on to the legal sense of the word today. Anglo-French, of course, did not invent the word, but rather took it from Old French injure, and from that we can trace its origins back to Latin iniuria. In Latin, it meant ‘wrongful, unjust, unlawful’. Yes, that’s unlawful, as in, illegal, and if you take away the prefix -in and look at the second element of the word, you may see something else associated with the justice system; jury. And indeed, the two are related.

The prefix -in denotes the opposite of a word, or renders it negative, giving a sense of not. The second element is the feminine form of iurius, with the meanings I already gave. This in turn came from ius, which meant ‘a right’, in the sense of ‘legal right’.

It can be traced back to Old Latin ious, which may have meant more specifically ‘sacred formula’. Since religion was important in public life, it is easy to see the association between the two meanings. We can look at Latin iurare for comparison. This verb meant ‘to pronounce or intone a ritual formula’.

From ritual formulas to rights to bodily harm, this word has come a long way. We wish a similarly interesting path on today’s highlighted author, Val Tobin.

Author Val Tobin's Books


In recent years, with the popularity of science fiction books and films, this word has been used more and more in the context of “extra-terrestrial, being from another planet”. In British English, it is used only extremely rarely to mean ‘foreigner’, and there are references to this in popular culture at the expense of US English, where it continues to have this meaning; such as in the song by Sting Englishman in New York, where he sings “I’m an alien, I’m an Englishman in New York” precisely because it sounds strange to the British listener.

It is interesting that it should sound strange, as that is precisely what the word once meant. You can see it in the meaning of foreigner – a person from a strange country. And what is an extra-terrestrial if not a being from a strange planet?

It came into English during the fourteenth century. We can see a few examples of it where it is used in different contexts, with differing meanings. Our first example comes from Guy de Chauliac’s medical text dating from 1425 Grande Chirurgie.

If any man..falle fro hyȝnez &..seiþ aliene or straunge þinges , it is to suppose þat þe hurt.

If anyone falls from a height and sees alien (peculiar) or strange things, it is to suppose that the brain is hurt.

In this example, the meaning of ‘alien’ is ‘odd, strange, peculiar’. Nothing to do with anything extraterrestrial or even from other countries. But if you think of it in terms of ‘foreign to me’, you can see how the sense developed.

Another example, also from the same time period, is in the Wycliffite Bible.

Bifore me þou schalt not haue noon alien goddis.

Before me thou shalt not have any alien (foreign) gods

In this context, the word is used to mean ‘from another place, foreign’. So you can see that during the fifteenth century, it was used in several different ways.

But where did it come from? Well, it was borrowed into Middle English from Old French, where it also meant strange or foreign. But Old French is not the start of the tale: it borrowed the word from Latin alienus. In Latin it meant ‘foreign, strange’ but also ‘of someone else, belonging to someone else’ – and it is not a large stretch to see that ‘of someone else’ can become ‘of another country’. It was formed from the Latin adverb alius, which meant ‘another, other, different’.

From Latin we go back to Proto-Indo-European *al- which would have meant ‘other’ or ‘beyond’ (elsewhere). We can also see words formed from this root in Greek, such as άλλος [allos], meaning ‘other, another’ or the adverb αλλιώς [allios], meaning ‘otherwise’.