Origin of the word
The Latin verb ‘efficere’ meaning ‘to achieve, accomplish or work out’ produced the noun ‘effectus’ for ‘achievement or accomplishment’. In French, this became ‘effet’ and in the middle of the 14th century referred to the ‘completion or execution’ of something. The word was appropriated by German, Scandinavian and Dutch languages and at the end of the 14th century was in use meaning the ‘ability or capacity to achieve an intended result’. Its definition expanded to represent ‘something that is produced as a consequence’ (1).
In 1736, an effect was used to indicate something that ‘made an impression’ on someone, while the term effects, used in order to indicate theatrical or cinematic techniques, was first recorded in 1881 (2a).
Related words: effective, effectively.
The word effect can be used to describe concepts in many different fields:
“Now the project’s being expanded to three hospitals in Birmingham and Nottingham which will provide an opportunity to measure the effect of the ‘teachable moment’ both before and after Redthread gets to work.” BBC. 3rd November 2017: The non-medics in A&E fighting the effects of knife crime (1).
“On massive, realistic sets using elaborate costumes and innovative special effects, the alternating tones of dark and light within Beauty and the Beast make this production deeper and more sophisticated than ever before.” The Telegraph. 17th March 2017: Making the magic of Beauty and the Beast real (2a).
“The museum was opened 20 years ago this month, by the king and queen of Spain, since when it has become the most influential building of modern times. It has given its name to the ‘Bilbao effect’ – a phenomenon whereby cultural investment plus showy architecture is supposed to equal economic uplift for cities down on their luck.” Guardian. 1st October 2017: The Bilbao effect: How Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim started a global craze (3).
1. a change that is produced in one person or thing by another
2. an appearance or reaction that is deliberately produced, for example by a writer, artist or musician
a. special artificial images and sounds created for a film
b. an artificial appearance given to a surface or to an object
3. something that regularly happens, according to a law, for example in science