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Do For a Spell

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What do we mean by the expression for a spell, meaning “for a period of time”? It’s mere coincidence that this term is written the same way as the word spell meaning to “arrange letters to form words” or spell as in “a magical incantation.” The spell meaning “a period of time” comes from Old English spala, which means “substitute.” In the 16th century, this kind of spellmeant “to take the place of someone doing a task” or “take a turn at doing work.” By the 18th century, the word’s meaning had expanded to include the more general idea of “a period of time.” This is part of a complete episode.

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