Thursday, June 16, 2016

Language of Confusion: What the -Duce? Part I

I think it’s a clever pun. That’s all that matters.

Induce—also spelled enduce—showed up in the late fourteenth century coming from the classical Latin inducere, lead. Induct showed up at about the same time, having a slightly different history. It comes from the past participle of inducere, inductus (you know, inducted) which is how that t got in there. The in- is just in, and the ducere means lead. Hm. A bit redundant there. And just to throw it out there ducere is also the origin word for duke, as in the royal title, and less surprisingly, the word duct.

Deduce and deduct also showed up in the early fifteenth century, also come from classical Latin, and come from the words deducere (lead down) and deductus (drawn down). De- is the down part, and ducere is lead, so it’s to lead down, which I guess is what you do figuratively when you’re deducing. So miraculously, this makes sense!

Both product and produce showed up in the early fifteenth century (although as a noun produce didn’t show up until two centuries later). Their histories are pretty much the same as induce/induct, with them coming from the classical Latin producere, produce, and productum, product (I know you can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes right now). The pro- prefix means forth here, as in bringing something forth, so when you mix it with ducere/to lead, it’s to lead forth. I’m not really sure how it got from that to what we know produce as. Can we just dismiss it by saying words are weird? Then let’s do that.

Yes, conduce is a word. No, I hadn’t heard of it before today either. Apparently it means “lead to a result”. Both it and conduct showed up in the early fifteenth century, and again, one comes from the Latin conducere, hire or bring together, and conductus, which is just to conduct. The con- comes from com-, together, so lead together. Which makes sense for the bring together part, but not for the rest. It seems that conduct just changed over the years, although it’s a much more versatile word now. I guess the other definitions just grew from the original.

Join us next week for the stupefying conclusion.



  1. Lead up, lead down, lead together, lead into confusion...
    Now, how did produce becomes vegetables?

  2. While I'm used to conduct, I've never heard conduce before.

  3. I don't know. "Lead in" and "lead down" don't seem different enough to me to lead to inductive and deductive, which are totally different forms of thinking.

  4. I assume conduce has the same root as conducive.

  5. Never heard the word conduce before… I must try using it in conversation.

  6. New words! Well, new word. You're expanding our vocabularies. (I love obscure words. I throw them out in class from time to time just for the looks for confusion.)


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