Thursday, July 3, 2014

Language of Confusion: -Pute

One thing that drives me nuts about some words (because I’m the kind of person who’s driven nuts by words) is that a lot of them are completely meaningless without their prefixes. Take compute for example. There’s also words like dispute and repute (and even impute and suppute are words, though not really used), but take away the prefix, and pute is nothing.

Compute is a late comer, having first showed up in the early seventeenth century, with computer showing up shortly after (not as the current definition of course :), and both coming two centuries after computation did. The words share an origin in the classical Latin computare, to calculate. The com- prefix means with, but putare has more varied meanings. It generally means think or suppose. “Think with” makes sense as a computer is a tool for thinking, although it’s amusing that once upon a time putare meant “to prune”, like you would a tree. Because sure, why not?

Dispute is much older than any of the com- words. It showed up in the early fourteenth century, coming from the Old French disputer, dispute or fight over, and classical Latin disputare, debate. Dis- means separately or apart from here, so added to suppose or think about, it’s “think separately”, or differently, than someone else. Wow, that actually makes sense.

Finally, we have repute, which showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Middle French reputer and classical Latin reputare, to consider. The re- prefix means repeatedly, making the word “to think repeatedly”, which makes sense since considering something is thinking about it a lot. And of course, it’s related to reputation.

TL;DR: Pute means think. Learning achieved.



  1. Hang on a moment, I'm busy puting...

  2. I'm just going to move away while Alex does his "puting."

  3. Think separately. Is that anything like think differently? (Having an Apple moment...)

  4. When you fit in repute, you have to go with the opposite, as in ill repute...

  5. Hi Jeanne ... interesting - and 'puting could so easily become a 'new word' ..

    Love reading about the various ways all the words come about and how long they take to become accepted as such ..

    Also as William and Liz mention .. we do live and write in a convoluted word world ..

    Cheers Hilary

  6. I did not know the meaning of this root!

    There are a lot of words that don't make sense without their prefix. One of my favorites is discombobulate.

    I really want to combobulate.
    Or maybe even bobulate!


Please validate me.