Thursday, November 17, 2016

Language of Confusion: Ports, Part III

Okay, let’s look at words that use port as a suffix, shall we? This shouldn’t take too long, right?

Report first showed up in the late fourteenth century as a verb then a noun. Now, it has lots of meanings these days, from the results of something to an assignment and also…a loud noise. Um, no, I don’t know why. But all those definitions didn’t come until the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Before that, it just meant something you told to someone. The noun comes from the Old French report while the verb is from reporter, which in turn comes from the classical Latin reportare, to (figuratively) carry back…like you would with news, I suppose. The re- is the back part, while portare, as we learned two weeks ago when looking at portal, literally means carry. So basically, carry back went from literal to figurative, and from there to even more crazy definitions.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if rapport is related to report. And it is! But not as much as you might think. It showed up in the seventeenth century from the French (Modern French, that is) rapport/rapporter, which actually means report. The r comes from re- and means again and the apporter means to bring. Apportare comes from Latin, where it means bring and is actually a combo word itself! The a comes from ad-, to, and the rest is portare, which as we all know means carry. To carry back to…I guess that’s a good way to describe having a rapport with someone.

Next we’re looking at import, and related to it, important. Import showed up first in the early fifteenth century while important showed up a little later in the mid sixteenth century. These days, import is more commonly used to describe goods imported from elsewhere, but originally it was closer to important in definition. Which is funny since it comes from the classical Latin importare, which means bring in from abroad (I guess they used it to mean something else and then started using the original definition anyway). Importare is a mix of the prefix in-, into, and portare, carry. So, carry into. Makes sense, at least for the imported goods definition. Important is mostly the same, but it actually came to us by way of the Middle French important and Medieval Latin importantem, which does have the significant definition. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s where import got its other definition, although who knows who gave it that in the first place.

Since we did import, you’re probably wondering about export, too. It showed up in the early seventeenth century meaning carrying something out. It comes from the classical Latin exportare, export, which is a combination of ex-, away, and portare. Carry away. No big surprises here.

And…wow, this post is getting long and I have a lot of words left. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is going to have to go into an unprecedented fourth week. And of course next week is Thanksgiving, which means I’m going to be super busy and throwing up filler posts so you’ll have to wait until the week after that for the thrilling conclusion.



  1. I'll be holding my breath!
    So no idea where the report of a gun came from?

  2. Rapport's one of those words we don't get a lot of use of these days.

  3. You know, never mind. The joke I was going to make was stretching too far, so I'll go with silence rather than proving it.

  4. Amazing how four little letters can generate so many words...


Please validate me.