Surprisingly, the original meaning of "lewd", way back in Anglo-Saxon, was "lay".
Not THAT "lay"!!
"Lay" as in, "not a member of the clergy". Because most non-clerics were illiterate, by the 13th century "lewd" had taken on the meaning of "unlearned", and with that the rot set in. "Lewd" went on a downward spiral through "vulgar", "ill-bred", and "evil, wicked" before finally coming to rest at " lustful, lecherous, wanton" and " indecent, offensive in a sexual way".
This may be a good example of word evolution to keep in mind the next time you need to argue with someone who insists that "decimate" has to mean literally "kill one in ten" because it comes from the Latin word for ten. By this logic, clergy could not possibly be lewd. NOT, of course, that I am suggesting anything, my clergy friends!
Now you'll be wondering why non-clerics are called laypeople. This "lay" has its origin in the Greek word laos (the people).
Can I tempt you with a ballet trip to Paris and Amsterdam in the springtime? For info, please click here:
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