Thursday, April 6, 2017

Language of Confusion: Reluctantly

Just a short one today, as I’m super busy.

Neither reluctance nor reluctant are very old, both having showed up in the mid seventeenth century. Now reluctant used to mean unwilling, pretty close to what we use it for, but reluctance specifically meant the “act of struggling against” when it first came into being and it wasn’t until a couple of decades later that it meant unwillingness to do something. And also it comes from an awesome word that we don’t use anymore, reluct, which means struggle or rebel against.

Reluct (why don’t we have it anymore??) comes from the classical Latin reluctari, which means to resist, not a huge leap. It’s a combination of the prefix re-, against, and luctari, struggle, so it actually makes sense. And hey, if you’re reluctant to do something you’re definitely going to struggle against it, right? Luctari can actually be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European lug-to, bent. Okay, that one I can’t figure. Bending something is a struggle? I guess if it’s not very bendable. I don’t know what it could be referring to, though. Not metal, as Proto Indo European is like fifty five hundred years old and that’s way before metalwork was used.

I’m reading too much into this. It went from bent to unwilling. Let’s leave it at that.



  1. Maybe it was struggling to carry something and the person was bent over?

  2. I don't recall ever seeing reluct on its own.

  3. The idea of bending something to your will makes sense to me for this.

  4. I think we need to start a movement to bring back reluct.

  5. I am going to start using reluct. Maybe it will catch on...


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