Thursday, June 23, 2016

Language of Confusion: What the -Duce? Part II

Here we are again! More -Duce/-Duct words. Because it’s fun, dammit.

Abduct is relatively recent, showing up in 1834, either from abduction…or abduce. Seriously? That’s a word? Huh, it is. Abduce actually showed up in the early sixteenth century, which was a full century before abduction. Abduce is from the classical Latin abductus, withdrawn, and abduction is from abductionem, abducting. Both are from abducere, which can mean withdraw, lead away, or just plain abduct. The ab- part gives us away, while ducere, if you’ll remember from last week, means to lead. Hey, it makes sense! How about that.

There is no “seduct”, but there is a seduction, so we’re going to look at -duction words now. Seduce and seduction both showed up at the same time, in the early sixteenth century. But boy were there some differences between them. Seduce originally meant to “persuade a vassal to desert his allegiance”, coming from the classical Latin seducere, seduce or lead away. Seduction is from the Latin seductionem, which is just seduction, but again, it had no sexual connotations to it until Modern English. Anyway, the se- part of seduction is a little known prefix that means apart or away. It actually makes sense that seducere means “lead away”. Although still not why English had to bring sex into it.

Reduce showed up in the late fourteenth century as bring back, while reduction showed up in the early fifteenth century as restoration to a previous state. Hm. Apparently from the “earlier state”, people started to think of it as “to an inferior condition”, and then it morphed into diminish or lessen. I guess I can see the logic of that one. Anyway, reduction comes from the Latin reductionem (just reduction), which comes from reduce’s origin word, reducere (big shock, it’s reduce). Re- means back, so with ducere it’s lead back. And from that we got the crazy path to the definition we have today.

Introduce showed up in the early fifteenth century, coming from introduction, which showed up in the late fourteenth century. Or it might come from the Latin introducere, lead in, and the verb form of introductionem, introducing. Intro- means inside, plus ducere, gives us lead inside. Okay, this one I really don’t see the logic of. Maybe if you lead something inside you’re introducing it?

Finally, I’d like to mention that aqueduct and viaduct are also related. In classical Latin, aquaeductus is a mix of aqua, water, and ductus, lead. Basically, it’s leading water which is exactly what an aqueduct does. Viaduct is the same, but via means road. So it’s leading by a road. Kind of interesting, huh?

Shut up. Yes it is.



  1. It is interesting.
    I'd make a comment about the sex part, but I think I'll just let that one go...

  2. It has to do with sex, because evil women would lead men away from their wives. See, it makes perfect sense. And, also, relates to convincing someone to change his allegiance.

  3. What a difference seduce has undergone!

  4. At least they all had to do with leading.

  5. Maybe seduce was originally a euphemism...

  6. If I do find it interesting, do I still have to shut up?

    And the introduce/introduction thing makes me think of those classic novels I've read where someone writes the main character a letter of introduction that the main character then uses to be introduced to a new circle of society. Like, it literally can get the character led inside. "Oh, you have a letter from Mr. So-and-so? Come right this way..." I may be totally reaching there, but that's what I thought of.

    I bet I have to shut up now, huh...


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