Thursday, January 17, 2013

Language of Confusion: -Mend

I’ve actually had this one rolling around for over a year and figured why not now? I’m totally sick of research from the punctuation symbols posts—and I still haven’t gone through them all. So, sorry, you’ll have to wait to hear about #, % and *. And, I don’t know, possibly others as long I can come up with interesting ones.

Anyway, -mend words. They’re related to mend, as one would mend some clothes or a broken bone. Mend and amendshowed up in the thirteenth century and both came from the same word, the Old French amender, meaning repent or atone for. Yes, the prefixed version came before the non-prefixed (at least in English). The reason mend means fix/heal is because that in the fifteenth century, it shifted from spiritual to physical repair. Amend, of course, stays in more of a metaphorical sense.

Now, amender came from the classical Latinemendare, to correct. The e- is from ex-, “out of” or “from within” while the –mendare is from –menda, blemish, and the Proto Indo Europeanmend, which means defect. So basically, emendare means getting out a blemish : ). That word is also where emend (which first showed up in the fifteenth century) comes from. Yes, emend and amend are almost the same word, however the former seems more specific to editing and the latter can be more broadly adapted(as in, you can amend your behavior but you can’t emend it).

We also can look at commend and its cousin recommend(as well as discommend, of which there is no etymological entry, although you can look it up at However, these are not offshoots of emendare. Rather, they come from the classical Latin mandare, which a very long time agoI mentioned as the origin word for mandate, manualand the prefix –mand (as in, remand, command). As to why they changed the final vowel…I don’t know. Because people are always changing the way they say things?

Let’s go with that.



  1. It's your blog, and you don't have to do any more punctuation posts if you don't want to.

  2. I can only imagine what etymologists are going to make, someday, of the origins of text shortform like LOL or UR that we have so much of at the current day...


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