feeble (adj.) [:] late 12c., "lacking strength or vigor" (physical, moral, or intellectual), from Old French feble "weak, feeble" (12c., Modern French faible), dissimilated from Latin flebilis "lamentable," literally "that is to be wept over," from flere "weep, cry, shed tears, lament," from PIE bhle-* "to howl" (see bleat (v.)). **The first -l- was lost in Old French. The noun meaning "feeble person" is recorded from mid-14c.

Is the loss of the first -l- part of a larger phenomenon?

I am unsure whether dissimulation explains the loss of the first -l- here, because nothing in the Latin flebilis /ˈfleː.bi.lis/, [ˈfɫeː.bɪ.lɪs], seems to sound like the first syllable in Old French feble.

1 Answer 1


It is dissimilation, or more specifically loss by dissimilation. There are two [l] sounds in the word originally, and one of them dissimilates to zero, i.e. is lost. This is a common type of sound change.

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