Meaning of Calamity

The word calamity comes from the Latin language: calamĭtas. The concept is used to refer to a disaster or a catastrophe that affects a large number of individuals.

For example: “The earthquake last year was a calamity: there were hundreds of deaths and many families lost their houses”, “If the company closes its doors it will be a calamity for the whole town “, “We have not had electricity for five days! ! It’s a calamity! ” .

The idea of calamity is usually linked to a tragic or very negative event. Suppose a tsunami wipes out an island, leaving many injured and dead, and destroying local infrastructure. It can be said that this natural phenomenon is a calamity, or that it caused a calamity in the island population.

Sometimes the term calamity is used to refer to a situation that causes some pain, anguish or discomfort, without becoming a tragedy. If the Club Atletico San Vicente lost 8-0 to Deportivo La Carolina, footballers and supporters of the team loser may consider that the result is a calamity. This malaise, however, cannot be compared with the suffering experienced by the victims of a true tragedy.

It is important to note that the misfortune, adversity and misfortune that this concept represents can affect both a group of living beings (ranging from a few to entire communities) and just one in particular. For example, we can say that “the tsunami represented a real calamity for the entire country”, but also that “this child has seen nothing but abuse and calamities in his short life.

Calamity, finally, can refer to a subject who is clumsy, inept, or annoying: “You are a calamity! Once again you have forgotten to attend the meeting with the directors ”, “ This waiter is a calamity, he mixed up all the dishes and brought them cold ”, “ Today I am a calamity, I better go to take a nap ”.

Continuing with the etymology of the term calamity, we know that it derives from the Latin calamitas, calamitatis, which means “damage, blow, scourge.” Precisely, these words that can define the original closely linked with the sense that today we give to the concept, figuratively unfortunate that ruin someone’s life can also be seen as a blow or scourge that He gives him life, something terrible that causes him a very deep and irreparable damage.

The root of the Latin term is * kel-2, of Indo-European origin and has the connotation of “beat, cut.” Other Latin words that share it are gladius, which can be translated as “sword,” and incolumis, “intact, safe and sound, without damage”; gladiolus and gladiator derive from the first, and from the second we obtained unscathed.

If we go back to the time when the Italic peoples (Latin, Umbrian, Oscan) actually used the word calamitas, the history of its evolution and its meaning becomes much clearer. It turns out that these communities, in times of harvest, had to invest a lot of time in the task called threshing, which consists of separating the harvested wheat from the calamus, that is, from the “straw” or ” cane “.

At that time, since in the Mediterranean the winds that blow in a northerly direction are normal at harvest times, sometimes it happened that the wheat was mixed again with the calamus, absolutely useless for the harvest. Such a situation was a real calamity, since the fruits of the threshing were fading, and the work had to be done again. If we take into account that even today a poor harvest can put the economy at risk, it goes without saying that the consequences in the days of the Old Empire were not exactly mild.