Thursday, January 19, 2017

Language of Confusion: The Sequel

A while back (in fact, almost exactly a year ago), I did an etymology post about words with quest, like question or request. I figured that the word sequester would be related. I was wrong. All the quest words come from the origin word for query. Sequester does not.

Sequester showed up in the late fourteenth century with basically the same meaning, although then it was used for anything rather than specifically juries. It comes from the Old French sequestrer, which then comes from the Late Latin sequestrare, to place in safekeeping. Amusingly, that word comes from a classical Latin word: sequester, which meant something like mediator. Yes, it was spelled exactly the same as we spell it before they threw a bunch of extra R’s in there. It probably comes from sequi, follow, the origin word for sequel, although I’m not sure how you get from follow to mediator. Magic?

But now let’s look at sequel. It showed up in the early fifteenth century meaning “train of followers”. Which…I guess it makes sense but it’s still odd for some reason. It comes from the Old French sequelle and Late Latin sequela, thing that follows or result, and sequi of course. Sequi can actually be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European sekw-, to follow.

Other words that come from sequi/sekw- include segue, which showed up in 1740 from the Italian segue and its verb form sequire, to follow, which come right from sequi. Sequence is also from sequi, showing up in the late fourteenth century as a hymn specifically sung “after the Hallelujah and before the Gospel”. That’s because it’s from the Old French sequence, answering versus. I guess they wanted a word for that and decided to make one from the Latin word for follow.

There are actually a ton of other words from sekw- but if I get into them now we’ll be here all day. Enough weirdness for now.

Orbis Latinus


  1. Sequence was once a hymn? You're right - magic!

  2. Train of followers makes sense for sequel, given that some films never take the hint and keep getting sequels (Saw, I'm looking at you. And Police Academy, you too).

  3. What I want to know is when you're going to start making up your own language.

  4. Sequi? Is that the same as non sequitur? (I love to throw "king of the non sequitur" out when a student utters something completely nonsensical that has nothing to do with anything that's been said.)

  5. I guess there are always sequences in music, so the hymn thing makes sense.

  6. Language is fascinating. And confusing!


Please validate me.