Thursday, January 25, 2018

Language of Confusion: Legs, Part III

Another big one today, this one with a bunch of words with -lect them.

We’ll start with dialect, since it’s not all that different from last week’s dialogue. It showed up in the late sixteenth century from the Middle French dialecte, classical Latin dialectus, and Greek dialektos, the latter two of which are both just dialect. The dia- again means across (related to the word origin for two but still separate), and the lektos is just from legein, speak or converse. The only thing really different between dialogue and dialect is the k sound.

Now for something different. Collect showed up in the early fifteenth century from the Old French  collecter and classical Latin collectus, gather or collect. That word is the past participle of colligere, to gather, a mix of the prefix com- (together) and -legere, to gather or choose. Of course that’s from the Proto Indo European root word leg-, the originator of all of these words. Plus we also have recollect, which showed up in the mid sixteenth century. Here the re- means again, meaning the word is “to gather together again”. I’m going to go out on the limb here and say that’s metaphorical.

Select showed up in the mid sixteenth century from the Latin selectus, select, which is from seligere, to select. Now we know legere means to gather, but the se- is a prefix meaning apart, meaning this word is to gather apart. I guess that’s what you do when you select.

Elect showed up in the early fifteenth century from the classical Latin electus (chosen) and eligere, to choose. The e- is from ex-, meaning out, and the ligere is just from legere. So it’s to choose out? I guess that fits. A similar lect word is eclectic, which showed up in the late seventeenth century meaning “not confined to or following any one model or system” and originally in reference to philosophers who “selected doctrines from every system”. Anyway, the word comes from the French eclectique (eclectic) and Greek eklektikos, selective. That ek- also comes from ex-, so once again the word means to choose out! It comes to us with a slightly different origin and the meaning is totally different. Except not…I almost understand it…

Okay, that’s when I know it’s time to stop for the day. There are still a ton more -lect words to go!



  1. Most of those make sense. I'm going to say gather apart instead of select and see if anyone notices.

  2. I'm going to go collect my recollections.

  3. Yes, these are fairly straight forward.

  4. Sounds like you've got a while to go on this topic. But that's good, right?

  5. There are certainly a lot more -lect words for you to explore. Hopefully they will all make as much sense as these ones do!


Please validate me.