The Etymology of Sampling #1

The Etymology of Sampling

If you ever wanted to discover the origins of sampling culture terminology, The Etymology of Sampling will help to explain.

In this new series, we will be looking at the meaning behind sampling terminology to find out where they come from and whether their meanings have stuck through the centuries. The first word we’ll look at is the fundamental part of what we do – sample.

Etymologically, the term’s history is pretty plain. The word derives from the Anglo-French saumple, taken from the Old French essample, originally exemplum in Latin. But this is where it gets interesting. An exemplum (meaning “example”) was a parable written to make a moral point. The story could vary in length and be factual or imaginary and it also signified “an action performed by another and used as an example or model.”

This is precisely what sampling is in the present day. The morals of sampling are another story perhaps but the act of storytelling are key to its potency. Picking the right sample creates a certain mood. Its length can translate to a short kick drum or snare or a 4-bar loop, or even a 16-bar verse, chopped or elongated. The story of a sample will always be told regardless of length.