Source: streig- = To stroke, rub, press. European root

I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but what are some right ways of interpreting these three opposing definitions, so that this PIE root feels reasonable and intuitive?

My problem: Is this root a contronym? The 3 infinitives in the definition clash, and confuse me.
'to stroke' is ambiguous; as below, its definition 1 connotes softness but its definition 3 connotes roughness.
'To rub' connotes softness.
'to press' is equally ambiguous; pressure can be soft or hard.

stroke {verb} {with object} = 1. Move one’s hand with gentle pressure over (a surface), typically repeatedly; caress

= 3. Hit or kick (a ball) smoothly and deliberately:

Footnote: I was reading Etymonline for 'stroke {verb} when I encountered this PIE root.

  • Definitions are frequently poorly written, but you're getting yourself confused by even trying to reconcile it with a sporting sense (especially one which I'd assume is AmEng).
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 18, 2015 at 4:55

2 Answers 2


These definitions aren't contradictory: they all refer to physical contact with some unspecified amount of pressure, and with the possibility of simultaneous movement along the surface. The resulting overall sense is a pretty broad one, but this is often the case with semantic reconstruction: if the reflex in language A means "rub" and the reflex in language B means "press", it's hard or impossible to tell which of the two was the original sense (or whether both are original), and lexicographers are reduced to simply listing both senses.


Definition 3 is surely a recent secondary development in English (and it is an English English definition - pace curiousdanii) used in TV football commentaries. To me 'rubbing' is 'soft stroking' and 'pressing' implies something similar without the movement so I would not see them as opposing. Presumably 'streig-' is the direct forebear of 'stroke'. *streig- > *straikanan > strācan > stroke. Ned

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.