Thursday, May 24, 2018

Language of Confusion: -Ment, Part III

Today’s -ment words are physical objects. That’s almost like a theme that ties them together, because the origins of the words sure as hell won’t.

Cement showed up in the fourteenth century from the Old French ciment, also cement, and classical Latin caementa, which… yeah, is also just cement. It comes from the verb caedere, to cut down, hew, or hack, evolving from the sense that stones were “hacked” into chips or powder for use in cement. Also, caedere is from the Proto Indo European root kae-id-, origin of words such as decide, precise, and homicide. Okay, I’m going to have to look into that at some point.

Pigment showed up in the late fourteenth century from the classical Latin pigmentum, which it’s pretty safe to assume just means pigment. It’s from the verb pingere, to paint, the origin word for paint. Amusingly enough, pingere is from the Proto Indo European peig-, to cut or mark with incision, which evolved to the sense of decorating with cut marks, then just decorate, then decorate with color. Therefore, paint, and pigment.

Ornament came about in the early thirteenth century meaning an accessory and not necessarily something decorative. It’s from the Old French ornement and classical Latin ornamentum, which could mean ornament or decoration, but also things like apparatus or kit. It’s from the verb ornare, to adorn, and ordo, which means… order. And yeah, that’s where order comes from.

Garment showed up in the fifteenth century, although it existed in the fourteenth century as garnement. That was taken from the Old French garnement (so that would explain the spelling), which is from the verb garnir, to fit out or adorn. It’s actually from a Germanic source, not Latin, can you believe it? But it can still be traced back to Proto Indo European, in this case the root word wer-, to cover. Origin of words such as garnish, warn, and cover because things are never weird enough.

Ointment appeared in the late thirteenth century from the Old French oignement, which was taken from the Vulgar Latin unguimentum and classical Latin unguentum, perfume or ointment. The verb of that is unguere, to smear with ointment, from the Proto Indo European ongw-, salve or anoint. And yeah, that’s where we get anoint from, as well as unction.

Words are so weird sometimes.



  1. Most of those make sense. Except maybe cement.

  2. So now I want to take book (or movie) titles and add "-ment" into it somewhere. Somewhere applicable.
    Like "The Pigman" to "The Pigmentman."

  3. I saw something on Twitter the other day. It was something about English being three languages pretending to be one.

  4. On that last one, I think "ungulant" is a thing too, unless I'm making it up, and I'm not sure what it means!

  5. Those seem to make sense... I guess that's why an ointment is an unguent. Which just happens to be one of my favourite words.


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