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Whence does this connotation of 'head' as foolhardiness originate? PIE? It appears in English words of Germanic origin like 'headfirst' and 'headlong', but also Latinate words like precipitate.

What metaphors or key ideas explain and overlie the semantic drifts? What semantic drifts bridge the original meaning (of 'head') with the induced meaning of impetuosity?

The head contains the mind, and so it seems contradictory to impute impetuosity to the head? For instance, feet implies impetuosity, because the feet enable someone to hurry somewhere recklessly. I don't know whether ancient peoples knew that the head contained the mind.

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  • You have many questions that have received an answer, but you have accepted very few of them. Please consider doing so. Accepting suitable answers is an important principle of this site, it wouldn't work so well without it.
    – robert
    Aug 18 '15 at 1:35
  • @robert Alas, some of the answers do not fully answer my question. For others, no upvotes exist and so I am unsure of their veracity. I also wish additional answers, but be assured that I shall try to accept more.
    – NNOX Apps
    Aug 18 '15 at 12:57
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    If an answer doesn't provide all the information, you could at least comment and ask for clarification. And upvotes (or a lack thereof) are probably a poor guide towards checking the accuracy of an answer - a much better yardstick is whether reasonable sources are given.
    – robert
    Aug 18 '15 at 13:09
  • @robert Please read my profile: linguistics.stackexchange.com/users/5306/…? I answer this there.
    – NNOX Apps
    Aug 18 '15 at 15:11
  • I think that you should ask one question at a time, rather than trying to cover all the bases of a possible discussion. Your multiple questions make it unclear what you're asking. Also, your assertions about the meanings of the word "head" seem to stem from your concepts about what metaphorical meanings this word "ought" to carry rather than what it does carry. For this reason, I voted to close your question, with the hope that you will re-post a single question that lends itself to a single answer. Aug 28 '15 at 20:00
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Headlong evolved from Middle English hedlong, alteration of hedling, heedling, hevedlynge (“headlong”), assimilated to long. Headling in Middle English came from hēafodling in Old English and both of them meant an "equal/peer" or, previously, a "chieftain".

The head – yes, ancient people in Europe etc. correctly "guessed" that the mind is located in the head – has something to do with decisions. It can't be "a priori" determined whether the decisions are good or bad. "Headlong" means "without any detailed analysis". It means that the "head goes first" even though the head is the organ that should spend some time by thinking, and therefore go last!

Whether the negation is included in the head-based word for "recklessly" is a matter of coincidences. In Slavic languages, "headlong" may be translated as "without the head" – for example the Czech word "bezhlavě" ("bez" is "without", "hlavě" is derived from "hlava", a "head") is one of the synonyms equivalent to "headlong".

One might conjecture that the Germanic languages meant exactly the same (without the head, i.e. without careful enough of any thinking) but omitted "without" because the Germanic words for "without" are longer than the Slavic words (2 syllables instead of 1).

Update

The OP recommended me to add a reply to this comment of the OP into this answer:

Thanks. Would you please explain the apparent contradiction in It means that the "head goes first" even though the head is the organ that should spend some time by thinking, and therefore go last!? You appear to agree with me that the head should go last, because the head allows for thinking. So instead, in fact, why DOES the head go first?

I agree that when one is thoughtful, the head goes last, especially when the situation or act is truly dangerous or counterproductive. It's the other organs that go first and the head is the organ that says "slow down". In other words, the head "should" go last. That's exactly the reason why it is wrong for the head to go first – and why we think that it's reckless for the head to go first, or to go headlong or headfirst! Someone does something "headlong" when he's doing it the wrong way! So the word makes perfect sense.

This is just a rationalization of an answer. Our almost opposite "without the head" makes perfect sense, too.

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  • Thanks. Would you please explain the apparent contradiction in It means that the "head goes first" even though the head is the organ that should spend some time by thinking, and therefore go last!? You appear to agree with me that the head should go last, because the head allows for thinking. So instead, in fact, why DOES the head go first?
    – NNOX Apps
    Aug 18 '15 at 12:55

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