Word Origins — Boilerplate

With so many words in the English language (I’ve seen estimates of from 400,000 to a million), there are some interesting origin stories. For example, boilerplate.

According Merriam-Webster, boilerplate can mean a syndicated material supplied especially to weekly newspapers in matrix or plate form, or standardized text, especially formulaic or hackneyed language.

These meanings originated in the pre-computer era, when small local newspapers depended on stories and editorials from large publishing syndicates. The material was delivered on metal plates with the type already set, a huge savings in time and money. Printers began calling them “boiler plates” because they resembled the plating used to make steam boilers, a major power source at one time.

Soon the word boilerplate evolved to mean the printed material on the plates as well as to the plates themselves. Then, because boilerplate stories were more often filler, the word acquired negative connotations like “hackneyed or unoriginal writing.”

There’s a story behind every word.

Taken from Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day” for June 18, 2019 (https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day).

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