Thursday, June 7, 2018

Language of Confusion: -Ment, Part V

This is the fifth one, right? I’m too lazy to check so I’m going with yes. Only one more after this.

Element showed up in the fourteenth century, but back then it only referred to earth, air, fire, and water because old timey people didn’t know how matter worked and it wasn’t until 1813 that elements were called elements. It’s from the classical Latin elementum, which it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it means element, and that was a translation of a Greek word (stoikheion, which I’m not sure the definition of), so they didn’t come up with the concept. Also, since “element” roughly means “first principles”, that’s why elementary is like saying basically or rudimentary (don’t worry, we’ll get to that word, too).

Testament first showed up in the late thirteenth century basically meaning a will, coming from the classical Latin testamentum, which is also just will []. It’s related to testari, which can mean testify, witness, or make a will, and testis, a witness. It’s from the Proto Indo European tri-st-i-, which means “third person standing by”. That tri- is where we get three from! So because a witness is a third party, that’s why we have testament. And in regards to the Bible, the reason the two parts are called testaments is because they were called vetus testamentum and novum testamentum (Old/New testament) in Late Latin, which was a translation of what they were called in Greek, palia/kaine diatheke. Diatheke can mean testament (like will) when translated into Latin, but it can also mean covenant or dispensation, which was what they were actually going for there.

Monument showed up in the late thirteenth century from the Old French monument and classical Latin monumentum, which means… monument. No big surprise there. It’s related to the word monere, to warn, in the sense that a monument is supposed to be a reminder. Monere comes from the Proto Indo European moneyo-, from men-, to think. A monument is something you’re supposed to remember to think about.

Ferment showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French fermenter and classical Latin fermentare, to ferment. It’s origins beyond that are muddy, but it might be related to fervimentum and fervere, seethe or boil. Which would make sense, but come on. When does this ever make sense?

Segement showed up in the mid sixteenth century from the classical Latin segmentum, asegment, strip, or cutting. It’s related to the verb secare, to cut. So a segment is something cut from something bigger.

Augment showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning “to become more severe” before it meant to make larger/greater. It’s from the Old French augmenter and Late Latin augmentare, to increase. That’s from the classical Latin augmentum, growth, and augere, to increase. The aug- is a Proto Indo European root meaning to increase and is where we get the wonderful month of August from, too.



  1. Beer is fermented in a warm vat, so that makes sense.
    If we traveled back a thousand years we wouldn't be able to communicate with anybody.

  2. Covenant for testament makes sense to me.

  3. These all make sense for a change. I'm disappointed... I like it better when they don't.

  4. For a minute, I read firmament for ferment. (It has been a long day in the middle school...)


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