First of all: hi fellow Crusaders! Great to meet you. I'll get to following you all as soon as I can, but I promised I'd get some writing done before I returned to the internet : ). In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my etymology Wednesdays. I know I do.
Strict itself is a word with the meaning of disciplined or authoritarian. But it is also the base of many other words: constrict, restrict, and district. Although they might not seem related, today’s voyage into etymology will show just how they are. Let’s go!
Starting at the root word, we find that strict showed up in the 1590s as a word for narrow, drawn in. It came from the Latin word strictus, which has the “drawn in” meaning as well as one of “tight” or rigid.” Strictus is the past participle of stringere—to bind tight—which is the origin word of strain. Stringere can be traced back to the basis of languages, Proto-Indo-European, as strenk—tight.
Constrict shares a similar story. It comes from the Latin constrictus, the past participle of constringere (definition: compress) and the origin word for (all together now) constrain. As you might expect, constrigere comes from stringere. The com- prefix means “together,” and added with “to bind tight” becomes “bound together.”
Next, restrict. From the early sixteenth century and again, from a Latin word (restrictus) that is the past participle of another (restringere). Restriction showed up at about the same time via Late Latin, but both have the same origin word in Latin (for the record, Late Latin is circa 4-8th centuries; Latin—referred to as classical Latin—is earlier), restrictus. And yes, it is from restringere, the origin word for restrain. The re- prefix often acts as a reiteration, an emphasis on the verb, so combined with stringere, it becomes something like extremely, definitely drawn tight.
And yes, district is from the same lot. It came along a little later (early seventeenth century) and meant a territory under a lord or officer. Its origin word is districtus, which in medieval Latin (which came in the 8th century after what’s known as classical Latin, mentioned above) and meant the “restraining of offenders or a jurisdiction.” It is the past participle of the classical Latin distringere, hinder or detain. While there is no such word as “distrain,” distress stems from distringere. The dis- prefix was used in the “apart” sense and strict as “drawn,” making “drawn apart.” When one districts a region, one divides it up. From there, we have territories—districts.