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From ‘net work’ to network – definitions and origins

January 5, 2012

The word network is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (2005 revised edition) as: “Network (noun) 1 An arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines… 2 A group or system of interconnected people or things… (verb) 1 Connect or operate with a network… 2 (often as noun networking) Interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

Interestingly, the first definition above referring to a more general sense of a network, as might be used for a network of railways or a canal system, reminds that a network consists of connecting lines which run in different directions. Crucially a network – especially a business network – ceases to be a network if there are no connecting lines. Creating and maintaining good lines of communications, in all directions, is as important as developing contacts. We could say instead that there is really no point developing contacts unless good lines of communications are established and maintained.

The OED defines a networker as “…1 A person who operates from home or an external office via a computer network… 2 A person who uses a network of professional or social contacts to further their career.”

The first networker definition here originally referred to the use of a computer network, whereas nowadays the notion of working from home or elsewhere remotely has merged significantly with the more modern meaning of networking, in the sense of contacts and communications. The point is that while a computer is probably significant in most forms of home or remote working, what matters most these days is the networking itself (communications and relationships), rather than there being a specific dependence on a computer network.

The 1922 OED explains that network entered the English language by 1560, simply from the words ‘net work’, which referred to the act or process of fabricating a net from threads or wires.

These separated root words, ‘net work’, are very apt today. ‘Net Work’ remind us of the vital aspects of modern successful networking, by which ideally:

  • we work (apply thought, commitment, effort)
  • to create, grow, use, assist and enable
  • our own net (network) of contacts.

A good network is created, and networking succeeds, by the application of hard work.

A network without the work produces nothing worthwhile.

Further useful points can be drawn from, and are explained in the more detailed origins and definitions of network and networking.

To define your definitions of networking- come along to one of our events, and see what you make of it for yourself!

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