I have noticed this phenomenon in quite a few Romance languages, that the verb "to mean" can also be conveyed by the phrase "to want to say", regardless of the origin of the verb "to want".

For example:

(Language): (verb meaning "to mean") | (phrase meaning "to want to say")
French:                    signifier | vouloir dire
Spanish:                  significar | querer decir
Portuguese:               significar | querer dizer
Catalan:                  significar | voler dir    (credits to fedorqui)
Italian:                 significare | voler dire
Northern Sardinian:      significare | quérrer narrare/nàrrere
Southern Sardinian:       significai | bòllir nài

As shown above, "querer" comes from the Latin verb "QVAERERE" while "vouloir" comes from the Latin verb "VELLE".

Am I correct to deduce then, that this phenomenon does not have a Latin origin?

Answers stating more cognates are also welcome.

  • 1
    Same in Catalan: significar | voler dir
    – fedorqui
    Aug 1, 2016 at 9:28
  • @fedorqui Gràcies, afegit.
    – Kenny Lau
    Aug 1, 2016 at 10:57
  • 1
    The verb to mean exists in Germanic languages, but not in Romance ones. In any case, its existence is a luxury rather than a necessity. In its absence, the most natural ways of conveying the same expression is by using one of the verbs want / wish / desire, followed by say.
    – Lucian
    Dec 15, 2016 at 23:26
  • 1
    Worth noting that the same periphrasis also exists in Dutch (willen zeggen) and German (sagen wollen).
    – Cairnarvon
    Dec 26, 2020 at 12:02
  • None the Romance verbs from significare take a human subject, any more than signify does in modern English. To indicate a human subject, one must use a different construction, which undoubtedly was developed early in Romance history, like many other features.
    – jlawler
    May 19, 2022 at 0:55


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