Beyond Words - Language Blog

Etymology of "Campaign"

Now that the U.S. has entered into the final weeks of a long presidential campaign, let’s take a closer look at the language we use to describe the process.

The etymology of the word campaign reflects a military history dating back to 17th-century Europe. The Latin campus — adopted in the French as campagne and campgna in Italian — means, simply, a field. Centuries ago, armies battled in open fields, launching military “campaigns” against one another. The political sense of campaigning by traveling and delivering speeches to garner support originates in the 18th-century and extends from the same principle of going into the country.