Questions tagged [etymology]

The study of the history of words including their origins and the changes they've undergone through time.

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How did the PIE root *per- (forward, through) evolve into 'para-', to mean 'contrary to'?

[Etymonline :] ... before vowels, par-, word-forming element meaning "alongside, beyond; altered; contrary; irregular, abnormal," from Greek para- from para (prep.) "beside, near, issuing from, ...
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What does the prefix 'ab-' mean in the Latin verb 'abundare' ?

abound (v.) early 14c., from Old French abonder "to abound, be abundant, come together in great numbers" (12c.), from Latin abundare "overflow, run over," from Latin ab- "off" (see ab-) + ...
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The PIE root *per- “forward, through” : How did it evolve to mean 'private' ?

[Etymonline :] ... privus "one's own, individual," from PIE *prei-wo-, from PIE *prai-, *prei-, from root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per). ... [AHI :] per1 ... ... from ...
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How did the Latin ''putare' evolve into all these different meanings?

2. [Etymonline:] ... putare   [=]   "reckon, clear up, trim, prune, settle" (see pave) 3. [Notre Dame:] 4. think, believe, suppose, hold; 5. reckon, estimate, value; 6. clear up, settle;...
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Etymology of some personal pronouns in PIE

In PIE we have the following traditionally reconstructed personal pronouns: u̯oe̯ "you two" and u̯ei "we" (inclusive). Brengtson claims that the original forms should be tu̯oe̯ and tu̯ei respectively....
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Why are two 'com-' prefixes in 'concomitant'?

[ Etymonline for 'concomitant (adj.)' ] ... from com- "with, together" (see com-) + comitari "join as a companion," from comes (genitive comitis) "companion" (see count (...
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136 views

What did the PIE prefix *kom- signify in

cumber | Origin and meaning of cumber by Online Etymology Dictionary c. 1300, cumbren, combren, "to overthrow, destroy, probably a shortening of  acombren "obstructing progress," from Old French ...
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How do participles partake of a noun?

[1.] [Etymonline'] from particeps "sharing, partaking" (see participation). In grammatical sense, the Latin translates Greek metokhe "sharer, partaker," and the notion is of a word "partaking" of ...
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358 views

Why does the 'PREdicate' follow?

[ Etymonline for 'predicate (n.)] ... from prae- "forth, before" (see pre-) + dicare "proclaim," from stem of dicere "to speak, to say" (see diction). Grammatical sense ...
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“come” in “become” (English) vs “venir” in “devenir” (French)

In both French and English, the word for become (devenir) includes the word for come (venir), even though the etymologies and words are very different. Why might this be?
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Online etymology dictionary for English (more explanatory than Etymonline and OED)

Would you please recommend etymology dictionaries for English that MUST be available online (either for free or purchase), BUT subject to the following conditions? 1. Many of the recommendations in ...
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How did 'piety = piété' and 'pity = pitié' diverge and evolve?

This Quora question motivated this. Do the Etymonline entries below imply that the connotation changed in Old French (and so even before English)? I pose the question also for the equivalent French ...
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Deceptive affix changes?

I exemplify with the following, but I ask this in general. How can I learn more about affixes that change meaning, especially those that are 'upended into' their antonyms? For example, I was ...
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115 views

How does the sense of direction in grammatical terms, relate to their definitions?

declension = the variation of the form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are identified. Etymonline for `declension {noun}' rechannels to decline (v.)...
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Etymology of 'commode' into French and then English

[ Etymonline for 'commode (n.)' ] 1786, "chest of drawers," earlier (1680s) name of a type of fashionable ladies' headdress, from French commode, noun use of adjective meaning "convenient, suitable,"...
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How did 'forth + fasten' evolve into 'propagation'?

[Etymonline for 'propagation (n.)'] ... from propago (genitive propaginis) "that which propagates, offspring," from pro- "forth" (see pro-) + * pag-, root of pangere "to ...
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How did 'sensuality' evolve to connote lechery? Does 'sensualité'?

Is the French feminine noun sensualité asexual? The English noun is sexual. Why? I heed the Etymological Fallacy. But what are some right ways of interpreting the dchotomy, to make it feel reasonable ...
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How does PIE root dhē- 'to set, to put', evolve to mean 'thesis'?

[Etymonline for 'thesis (n.)':] late 14c., "unaccented syllable or note," from Latin thesis "unaccented syllable in poetry," later (and more correctly) "stressed part of a metrical foot," from Greek ...
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182 views

'scorn': How can a human have horns?

I'm trying to understand both the etymology of 'scorn', (which derives from) that of the Old French 'escarn'. So I'm trying to understand both. [Etymonline for 'scorn (n.)' :] c. 1200, a shortening ...
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Why does word-initial upsilon always have a rough breathing?

How did a rough breathing develop before all words starting with an upsilon in Ancient Greek? This is a commonly noted fact about the distribution of these sounds (or rather spellings), but I’m having ...
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How does the prefix 'entre' in French's 'entreprendre' compare with the prefix 'under-' in English's 'undertake'?

enterprise (n.) early 15c., "an undertaking," formerly also enterprize, from Old French enterprise "an undertaking," noun use of fem. past participle of entreprendre "...
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Etymology of Old French 'escorgier': How does 'bind' evolve to mean 'whip'?

scourge (n.) c. 1200, "a whip, lash," from Anglo-French escorge, back-formation from Old French escorgier "to whip," from Vulgar Latin excorrigiare, from Latin ex- "out, off&...
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PIE root streig- : How to reconcile 'To stroke, rub, press'?

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 ...
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PIE root *trep-: 'trepidation' vs 'trope'

[Etymonline for trepidation (n.) :] ... from PIE * trep- (1) "to shake, tremble" ... , related to * trem- (see tremble (v.)). [Etymonline for trope (n.) :] ... from PIE * trep- (2) "to ...
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Where does the word “kitsch” come from?

While a lot of sources on wiktionary for instance agree that "kitsch" comes from dialectal german word "kitschen", the meaning of this word is different between wikitionary pages (in the french ...
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'dispose' vs 'dispose of' & « disposer » vs « disposer de »

[Source:] [D1.] dispose (v.) - (a) to arrange in order; (b) to lean toward or incline (typically used as a past participle). ... [D2.] dispose of (phrasal v.) - (a) to throw away or discard; (b) to ...
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Etymology of English suffix -logy

I excerpt OED, which I read because I want to understand this etymology. -logy, comb. form ... These Greek words for the most part are parasynthetic derivatives; in some instances the terminal ...
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What are the blanket or general terms representing these linguistic pitfalls?

Are there collective, sweeping official terms that comprise linguistic traps such as these? Etymological fallacy Folk etymology False friend False cognate False etymology
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Spelling Similarities in English and Spanish but not in Italian and Spanish

The spelling of the word 'admit' has a ⟨d⟩ in both English and the Spanish equivalent, admitir, but not in Italian ammettere. Why is the ⟨d⟩ absent in the Italian equivalent?
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Could “scratch” be derived from the same PIE source as “card” and “chart”?

I found the following entries on Wiktionary (emphasis mine): carte French noun card chart; map menu card English From Middle English carde (“playing card”), from Old French carte, from Latin charta, ...
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Why are placenames considered to be a valid way of identifying a substratum?

I've been reading about different methods used in linguistics, and I've been puzzled by the usage of placenames in identifying substratums in modern languages. Just because some language and its ...
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898 views

What is the origin of the Persian word شكر meaning Sugar?

Google says the word Sugar originates from سكر in Arabic. Yet the classic dictionary القاموس المحيط says the word comes from شكر in Persian. Any help with the etymology of the Persian word شكر?
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root of the word Virt

Originally "virtual" comes from Latin virtus, which can be translated like "force", "ability", "fact". Why nowadays in many languages word derived from "virtual" mean something exactly opposite - ...
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Is it arabic name for Austria نمسا borrowed from Proto-Slavic?

Can someone cite reliable source about Serbo-Croatian (Proto-Slavic) etymology of Arabic word for Austria نمسا (nimsa)? It's sounds very dubious for me. I suppose that we have no evidence of intensive ...
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Why in all languages the word “samovar” is borrowed from Russian? [closed]

India, Iran, Turkey all have ancient traditions of samovar-making. Yet In Persian, Kashmiri and Turkish they call the device by a borrowed Russian word "samovar" (self-boiler in Russian). I wonder, ...
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Why do peoples(Europe, Asia, Africa, etc) call “God” in very similar ways? [closed]

UK: dieu(the motto on passport - French)/deity(English word) China: tien(Chinese Wade-Giles... t->d) South Africa: modimo(o->əʊ) New Zealand: atua(Maori... t->d) North America: tirawa(Pawnee... w->u t-...
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194 views

How to understand etymology derived from obscure languages?

This ELU answer corroborates the helpfulness of etymology while heeding the Etymological Fallacy. Since I'm interested in French (which is derived from Latin), I can sometimes apply it to help ...
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365 views

Why does 'gauche' connote negativity in English and French? [duplicate]

gauche = {adjective} unsophisticated and socially awkward: 1. Why does gauche connote negativity? I read but won't replicate Etymonline here because it doesn't explain its negativity in English, at ...
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connection between Castor (one of the Διόσκουροι) and the animal (beaver)?

The history of the Ancient Greek word κάστωρ (beaver) is unclear. It may be : a foreign loan-word (? Sanskrit कस्तूरी kastūrī, “musk”) a Greek word meaning "shining (animal)" from καίνυμαι (perfect ...
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Etymology of Greek Enualios

Enualios or Enyalius (Ἐνυάλιος) is, in Homer and other Greek authors, either an epithet of the war god Ares or else the name of a separate god, the son of Ares and brother or partner of Enyo (whose ...
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Origin of “Eridanus”: Indo-European or Sumerian?

With the discovery and decipherment of ancient Babylonian and Sumerian texts in the 19th century a theory was offered that the name of the river constellation Eridanus, which appears in the poem ...
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New Etymological Knowledge

If a scholar or layperson wanted to submit a discovery of the origin of some obscure word or phrase not previously known, what would be the criteria they should follow acceptable to the academic ...
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Is there any link between the word 'eight' and the word 'night'?

When writing a text message with my phone, I often write "good n8" to say good night. Yet, I notice that this could also work in many other languages, or if not, it's pretty close. For ...
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Comparing writing systems by ease of encoding/decoding information

Considering the variety of systems of writing, the ease with which someone can receive written information in one system of writing is not precisely identical to that of any other, and I am curious to ...
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How do we get “four” when it doesn't follow Grimm's law?

I understand how Grimm's law has resulted in pairs such as duo / two, tri / three, penta / five. But how do we get "four"? I looked it up in the dictionary and the IE root is ‌‌kwetwer- Why doesn't ...
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Etymology of basic numerals (number words)

When speakers of a language coin words for one, two, three, four, etc., for the first time, where do they come up with the forms? Are there any common methods used across language families? Pirahã ...
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Etymology of Demeter

Can the name of the Greek goddess Demeter come from PIE word for tamer, dōma̯tēr (especially given the Aeolic form of the goddess' name, Δωμάτηρ)? I am interested in both whether it is possible from ...
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Etymological reason behind Lao's many seeming variants for “stairs”?

I'm in Laos studying Lao on my own and came across the fact that different sources have slightly different words for "stairs" and the SEAlang Lao dictionary has even more: ກະໃດ - 15 Google results ...
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Two questions about Sappho's name

The Greek poeter Ψάπφω/Ψάπφα beared an interesting name, probably not Greek. I have two questions, about the first and the last letter of her name : (1) what was the value of the initial Ψ ? This ...

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