Thursday, August 4, 2016

Language of Confusion: Founded

This is another one of those times where I read a word somewhere and couldn’t stop wondering where it came from. So come share in my obsession.

Found (as in create, not the past tense of find) showed up as a verb in the late thirteenth century. It comes from the Old French fonder, establish, and classical Latin fundare, foundation. So no big surprises. This found is actually related to fund, which showed up in the late seventeenth century meaning the foundation of something…or the bottom of it. Which is of course the foundation. It—and fund, by the way—come from the Modern French fond, which has meanings like background, bottom, and even essence. It also had a meaning of a “merchant’s basic stock or capital”, and since money is the foundation of so many businesses, that kind of makes sense. More so than the rest of this etymology. The French fond comes from the Latin fundus, which meant things like farm as well as bottom and comes from the Proto Indo European bhundh-, bottom. And yes, it’s the origin word for bottom, too.

Find, and the found that’s the past tense of find, has a different story. Found showed up in the late fourteenth century, but find has no definite date on it besides earlier than that. It comes from the Old English findan, find, and before that the Proto Germanic finthan, discover. It gets less and less like found the further back you go. Back in Proto Indo European, it was pent-, to tread or go. So because a lot of English words switched Ps to Fs and Ts to Ds, we have found.

And there are also words with found in them. Confound showed up in the early fourteenth century from the Anglo French confounder. Before that it was the Old French confondre and classical Latin confundere, to confuse. The con- means together, but the fundere comes from the origin of yet another found. See, there’s also a found that means to pour metal into a mold and originally meant just to melt something. I’ve never heard it used, but it comes from fundere (with an e, not an a!), which means pour. So confound is to pour together and has nothing to do with the other founds. I mean really—fundere comes from the Proto Indo European gheu-, to pour. A G!!! And to top things off, confundere is also the origin word for confuse, too!

Dumbfound is just that found plus dumb. Then there’s newfound, which is new put in front of the find found. And finally, there’s profound, which actually has some history to it. It showed up in the early fourteenth century from the Old French profund and classical Latin profundus, deep or bottomless. That fundus is the same as the fund one. The pro prefix means forth, so profound is like saying something is very bottomless. Sure. Why not. That’s one of the less crazy things I’ve heard today.

TL;DR: All the versions of found aren’t related even a little.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Confound comes from pour? Like, pouring a lot into someone to confuse them? Yeah, that's a stretch...

  2. If profound is bottomless, that implies it's deep. Close enough.

  3. The found that has to do with metal making is reflected in the word foundry, which in this case becomes a noun, and has all to do with steel making.

  4. Why are there so many homonyms? Just when I think I remember them all, another comes around and I realize that they're never ending.

  5. Ha! Reminds me of a line from my second book. “Good morning, Miss Emerson. Are you here to help or simply stare at my fundament?”

    Interesting as always, my friend. :)


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