Thursday, February 19, 2015

Language of Confusion: -Pressed, part 2

Woo, here we go! Press, part two.

Pressure showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning, and I quote, “act or fact of pressing on the mind or heart”—the literal meaning of pressing down on something came later, in the early fifteenth century. Pressure comes from the Old French presseure, which meant both a press for wine or cheeses and also an instrument of torture. You know, fun things. It comes from the Classical Latin pressura, pressing or squeezing.

No, I’m not joking. It kind of makes sense, really, as it’s coffee made with steam (ahem) pressure. It’s a recent word, showing up in 1945 from the Italian caffè espresso, which is what they call an espresso. Just plain espresso means expressed in Italian, and it comes from the Latin exprimere, which you might remember from last week as being the origin word for express.

Compress showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French compresser, put under pressure. That word comes from the classical Latin compressare, press together, the frequentative of comprimere, compress. The word for press is premere in Latin, so I guess they decided to do a letter change for some reason. Anyway, the com- prefix means together, so the word literally means press together, which is exactly what a compress does.

Like the others, suppress showed up in the late fourteenth century, where it meant to be burdensome for over a century before switching to the meaning we know it as in the early fifteen hundreds. It comes from the classical Latin (of course) suppressus, shockingly translated as suppress, the past participle of supprimere, which also means suppress. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes I don’t have a good grasp on the intricacies of English. Anyway, that sup- is actually sub-, as in under, so with premere it’s “press under”, which is a pretty good definition of what suppression tries to do.

Next we have oppress, which showed up in the mid fourteenth century from the Old French opresser, with the same meaning. It comes from the Medieval Latin oppressare and classical Latin opprimere, force or subdue (and in Late Latin, rape). The ob- means against, and with press…yeah, oppress against pretty much covers it. Press against something to keep it from fighting back.

Last but not least (or maybe it is, I don’t know), repress. It showed up in the late fourteenth century as to restrain, coming from the classical Latin repressus, stifled, and reprimere, repression. One of the prefix re-’s many meanings is back, so “press back”, like you would some emotion you don’t want bubbling to the surface.

I love it when the words make sense. It gives me a tingly feeling.



  1. A part 2. :) More interesting press info here.

  2. That tingly feeling could just be poor circulation.
    Maybe you should see a doctor.
    Or get more hugs.

  3. Compress is one of those words we don't use that often, come to think of it.

  4. Under pressure... (Suddenly that song came into my head.)

  5. As always, I always learn so much from these posts :)


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