Thursday, January 18, 2018

Language of Confusion: Legs, Part II

This week, the -logue words.

Dialogue showed up in the early thirteenth century as “a literary work consisting of a conversation between two or more persons”. An entire literary work! Not just one conversation. It comes from the classical Latin dialogus, dialogue, and before that the Greek dialogos, which is also just dialogue. The logos obviously comes from, well, logos, which we learned last week means word, discourse, or reason and comes from the Proto Indo European word for collect or gather. The dia means across here and may be from the Proto Indo European dwo-, which is the origin of two. This means the word is discourse across. I guess that follows. And let’s not forget monologue, which showed up much later in the mid seventeenth century. It’s a mix of the Greek monos, single (from the PIE men-, which means to think (don’t think too much about why that is (we’ll get to it someday (lets see how many layers of nested comments I can do! (five))))). So it’s one across instead of two across…I think.

Catalogue showed up in the early fifteenth century as cathaloge, from the Old French catalogue (how is the French closer than its original English form?) and Late Latin catalogus (catalogue), from the Greek katalogos, list. The kata/cata part means down and with logos…it’s word down. Makes sense!

Here’s a couple I’m sure you’re all familiar with. Prologue showed up in the early fourteenth century  from the Old French prologue, classical Latin prologus, prologue, and as usual the Greek prologos, once again prologue. The pro- means before, so it’s the word before. And there’s epilogue, which showed up an entire century later. This time it’s from Middle French, the word epilogue, which is from the classical Latin epilogus and Greek epilogos, both just epilogue. You get the drill. The epi- means in addition here, so it’s the additional word!

Now for analogue. It showed up in 1826 from the French (modern French, that’s how recent it is) analogue, similar. In Latin it’s analogus (analogous) and in Greek it’s analogos, which means considering. The ana- means throughout or according to, making it the word according to? The reason according to? This one’s a little hard to follow.

Whew! That’s all for this week!



  1. I know analog is related to analogue, but when did the former transform into meaning a continuous signal?

  2. Do you think a dialogue also referred to a play?

  3. No thoughts from me today, not even a monologue.

  4. Nice when a word like prologue actually makes sense in terms of its origins!


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