Thursday, May 7, 2015

Language of Confusion: -Clude

Back to etymology Thursdays! Time for some more big posts. Today we’re going to look at words that end in -clude.

Include showed up in the early fifteenth century, coming from the classical Latin includere, which basically means include, but also things like enclose and shut in. The prefix in- means in (no! really?), while -cludere comes from claudere, which means shut, the origin word, appropriately enough, for close. Antonym exclude showed up earlier, in the mid fourteenthcentury, and obviously it comes from excludere, or exclude. The ex- prefix means out, so instead of “shut in” we have “shut out”.

Next is conclude, which showed up earlier still in the earlyfourteenth century meaning the end of an argument before just meaning the end. It’s Latin version is concludere, which can mean conclusion, deduce, or enclose. The prefix con- means together, so this word is literally shut together. I’m not sure I see the logic in this one…

Preclude showed up more recently than the others, in the early seventeenth century. It comes from the classical Latin praecludere, close, shut off, or impede. The prae- is just pre-, before, so the word is “shut before”, which kind of makes sense. To preclude something is basically excluding it in advance.

Finally today, we look at seclude. It showed up in the midfifteenth century from the Latin secludere, to shut out or confine. Se- isn’t really a prefix, but rather a “word forming element” (it’s part of the word secret, for example), coming from sed-, meaning apart or without. So “to shut up apart” actually makes sense for seclude.



  1. They were shutting a lot of things in those days.

  2. I think I can see the logic of "shutting together" to form conclude, since in a conclusion, you are basically synthesizing -- or putting together -- all the prior elements to form one final statement.

  3. This is cool how you do this with the "base" of a word and how it changes meaning with what is put before it (in this case) or after it in other cases. So much of that is relative to the work I do with medical transcription, so its fun to read what you share :)


  4. So, to include means to shut in? Although, shut-ins aren't really about the including, are they?

  5. Possibly a better translation of "con" is "with" or "within," making the meaning "shut within." That's what a conclusion sounds like to me.

  6. Which one is closest to saying "shut up?"

  7. Preclude has become one of those words that is exceedingly rare.


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