global English linguistics and lexicography


February is by convention the month of romance, and on Macmillan Dictionary Blog it’s the month of romantic English. In this post I’ll take a look at the word together, because it is closely tied to our ideas of romance and love, but it’s an everyday sort of word that doesn’t attract much attention to itself.

When we hear the word together, we think naturally of couples, bonds, relationships – often our own – and also of larger collectives: families, social groups, and various communal sets and categories. Its numerous entries in the Macmillan Dictionary (combined or joined, near each other, against each other, with each other, when people unite, at the same time, considered as whole, in a relationship), together with its many interrelated definitions and idioms, generate a semantic field that underscores the feeling of union.

In three familiar syllables, together connotes a great deal and can serve as a casual shorthand for the things people expect in a relationship, such as affinity, intimacy, complementarity, and a deep sense of mutual belonging. Our identities are shaped by our relationships with our loved ones and with the wider community. These relationships give us a sense of shared emotional connection: in a word, togetherness.

You might wonder about the word’s origins. Together goes back to the Old English togædere, formed by combining the preposition to with gædere, an adverb meaning “together”. Gæd is an Old English word for fellowship or companionship. Through the Indo-European root ghedh (unite, join, fit together) there is a connection with the origin of gather; this makes sense on reflection, though intuition can often be misleading in etymology.

To jump from the distant past to more recent times, I’ll leave you with a romantic pop song, Philip Oakey’s Together in Electric Dreams – not because it’s an old favourite (though it does activate my ’80s nostalgia) but because its lyric “We’ll always be together, together in electric dreams” inadvertently echoes, or anticipates, the connections and relationships made possible by the Internet.

Email this Post Email this Post

About the author


Stan Carey

Stan Carey is a freelance editor, proofreader and writer from the west of Ireland. Trained as a scientist and TEFL teacher, he writes about language, words, books and more on Sentence first, Macmillan Dictionary Blog and elsewhere. He tweets at @StanCarey.


Leave a Comment