Learn with ABA English – The word “bewilder”


The word “vernacular” means the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region.

Today we will be looking at the origin of the verb “to bewilder”, with the help of TED.

Bewilder – to confuse (someone) very much.

The history of the word bewilder is more straightforward than you might think. Roots can be traced back to the Old English words wilde (undomesticated) and deor (untamed animals), eventually combined into the word wilderness. Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel track bewilder’s etymological path from meaning natural states to complete confusion.

This is what we recommend you do:

1. Read the text
2. Understand the vocabulary
3. Watch the mini-documentary
4. Visit the TED site to complete their exercises


Bewilder: to puzzle or confuse completely.

The root of the word “bewilder” can be traced back to the Old English word “wilde”, which was used to refer to something that was in a natural state, uncultivated or undomesticated. Over time the word “wilde” was often linked to the Old English word “deor”.

“Deor”, which was derived from an early Indo-European root that meant “breathe” was initially used to describe any untamed animal or beast. This eventually morphed into the modern word “deer”, meaning a ruminant of the family Cervidae.

The two old English words, when mashed together, became “wilderness”, meaning a tract of uncultivated land, primarily inhabited by undomesticated beasts. From the word “wilderness”, the word “wilder” was born. To “wilder” someone was to lead him astray or lure him into the woods.

In the 1600’s, the prefix “be” meaning “thoroughly”, was compounded with wilder as a way of tacking on a little extra punch. Someone who was “bewildered” was thoroughly lost in the wild. From this winding background, “bewilder” eventually evolved into our current definition, to be completely confused.


Straightforward – easy to do or understand : not complicated.

Traced back – to follow (something) back to its cause, beginning, or origin : to find out where something came from.

Undomesticated – untrained.

Untamed – also untrained.

Wilderness – a wild and natural area in which few people live.

Etymological – an explanation of where a word came from : the history of a word.

Uncultivated – not prepared or used for growing crops or plants : not cultivated.

Morphed – to change gradually and completely from one thing into another thing usually in a way that is surprising or that seems magical.

Ruminant – an animal (such as a cow or sheep) that has more than one stomach and that swallows food and then brings it back up again to continue chewing it.

Mashed – to mix, to combine.

Astray – off the right path or route.

Lure – to cause or persuade (a person or an animal) to go somewhere or to do something by offering some pleasure or gain.

Compounded – to form (something) by combining separate things.

Tacking on – Adding on.

Thoroughly – including every possible part or detail.



If you enjoyed this lesson, visit TED to complete their exercises.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *