Thursday, February 22, 2018

Language of Confusion: Legs Part VII

It feels like I’ve been doing this series all year.

First up today, legal. It showed up in the mid fifteenth century from the Old French legal and classical Latin legalis, which is just legal. It’s from the word lex, which means law and is the origin word for legitimate as well as loyal (loyal and legal can be compared, spelling wise, to royal and regal). Now, you might bet thinking that lex is related to lexicon, and it is, but not as much as you might think. Like I mentioned several weeks ago, lexicon comes from Greek, but legalis is only from (probably) the Latin verb legere, which has also popped up in this series as the verb to read. And legere is from the Proto Indo European leg-, collect or gather, which is also where lexicon and all the other leg words originate.

Religion is also in the leg family. Well, maybe. It showed up in the thirteenth century with pretty much the same meaning as today, coming from the Old French religion and classical Latin religionem, religion or reverence for the gods. It’s thought to be from the word relegere, reread, which is literally re- (again) and legere, (to read). However there’s another theory, that religion actually comes from the same place as the word rely, which has nothing to do with the leg- words at all!

Privilege showed up in the mid twelfth century from the Old French privilege and classical Latin privilegium, privilege. No great surprises here. It’s actually a mix of the earlier mentioned lex and the word privus, individual, and the origin word for private. A private law… is a privilege.

Next, diligence showed up in the mid fourteenth century from the Old French diligence and classical Latin diligentia, diligence. Boy, I’m getting repetitive today. But diligentia is from diligere, single out, value highly… or love. The di- comes from dis-, apart, and legere means choose or gather here (instead of read). Gather apart to love to attentiveness. We’re getting some weird ones today.

Finally, to finish off the leg words once and for all… we have coil. Seriously. It showed up in the early seventeenth century from the Middle French coillir, to gather or pick, and classical Latin colligere, gathering. A word I actually mentioned when I did the post on collect. And like I said then, it’s a mix of the prefix com, together, and legere, to gather. I don’t know why it transformed into something spiraled together, but I do know that that didn’t happen until 1798! Can you believe it?

Anyway, we’re done!!! Woo!



  1. And our language all spiraled downward after that...

  2. I bet religion is a leg word because of all the legalism involved in it.

  3. Coil? Really? Coil?!?

    I read somewhere that the most complicated word in the English language is run. I think they were wrong. It's leg.


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