Etymology of ‘Management’


I was studying the etymology of ‘management’ recently.

I made a Sankey Diagram with D3js based on Mike Bostock’s awesome Javascript and shared my code at GitHub.

Sankey Diagram of the history/etymology of the word Management


The word ‘management‘ appears to have evolved from a proto-Germanic word, handuz, that describes the fundamental movements of the human hand: hinþaną and hantalōn which mean “to obtain” and “to offer” or “to seize” and “to let go”.

Hantalōn is also the ancestor of ‘handle’ and ‘handling’ and refers to the manipulation of tools (e.g., ‘handles’).

  • The handling of tools.
  • The handler of tools.
  • An employee is a “hired hand”.

The proto-Germanic handuz, which is the ancestor of ‘hand’, has a parallel in ancient Latin: manus which meant “belonging to the hand” (where “belonging” implies ownership as in “power over”).

While the term ‘handler’ can denote a person who manipulates tools, it’s noteworthy that reins are a tool for handling animals and the Italian noun maneggiare means “wirepulling” in the context keeping livestock such as horses or mules.


  • Maneggiare conveys the handling of animals;
  • menagerie is a word that describes a collection of live animals and the enclosure in which they are kept (i.e., the barn);
  • and manège translates from early French to English as ‘horsemanship’.

Therefore ‘management’ relates to animal husbandry — and the earliest uses of the terms ‘manage’, ‘manager’, and ‘management’ referred to the keeping of animals.


While ‘management’ originally referred to the handling of animals and their stables (the menagerie), eventually the word became generally applied to the keeping of the house. By 14th century A.D. the French word ménage meant household; ménager referred to housekeeping and cleaning; and ménagère translated to English as ‘housewife’ (i.e., keeper of the house).

As well, the term ‘management’ became broadly used to describe the keeping of, not only the animals and household, but the farm, the property, and all of its related business operations: hired hands, finances, et cetera. As industrial commerce grew through the 18th and 19th centuries, ‘management’ was then applied to operating a business and its company of employees.

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