I was reading Etymonline's entry for splice {verb}:

1520s, originally a sailors' word, from Middle Dutch splissen "to splice" (Dutch splitsen), from Proto-Germanic spli-, from PIE root *(s)plei- "to split, splice" (see flint).
The Dutch word was borrowed in French as épisser.

to split and to splice are antonyms; so I'm confused. Is this PIE root a contronym?
If so, how did it become thus?

Footnote: I just discovered the pricelessness in WARILY learning PIE roots, for improving my English and French vocabulary. Please pardon this question if it's naive, but please do advise.

  • It's up to you whether it's a contronym or not, but it's not limited to that root. The relevant phonosemantics of simplex words with the SPL- assonance shows both splitting and splicing, depending on whether one's viewing input or output of the transformation referred to in the event -- which in turn mostly depends on which is relevant in the particular context where the word is used. Which can be pretty random. Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


The OED (the uncredited source for most of the entries in etymonline) is a bit more cautious; its entry on “splice” says: “< Middle Dutch splissen, of doubtful origin, but perhaps related to split v.” Both “splice” and “split” are originally nautical terms, borrowed from Dutch. I do not see any great difficulty in the semantic development split > splice. You have to split a cable before you can splice it.

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