Domestic

The term “domestic” derives from the Latin domus (house), through the Middle French domestique. The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) earliest usages are early sixteenth century, by which time the word already had multiple meanings: the achievement of quasi-familial intimacy, as in the 1521 supplication “make hym domestique / Within the heuyns,” but also homegrown rather than foreign. While “domestic” always implied closeness, the extent of the sphere of proximity varied. That sphere might be the individual (John Norris’s 1707 Treatise on Humility defines “domestic ignorance” as “the ignorance of . . . what passes within our own breast,” notes the OED); the household, for example in the use of “domestics” to describe servants; the nation, as in “domestic policy”; or even humankind at large, since “domestic animal” includes livestock belonging to people in other countries and eras. What the sphere of proximity excludes—the wild animal, …

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