Thursday, August 16, 2018

Language of Confusion: -Gress, Part II

Hopefully this week won’t include any words as unpleasant as last week.

Regress showed up in the late fourteenth century from the classical Latin regressus, which means returning, from regredi, to go back. As we learned last week, gradi (which is where regredi comes from in spite of the different vowels) means to walk, and the prefix re- means back here. To walk back. To regress. And gradi of course comes from the Proto Indo European ghredh-, to walk, which shows up in a lot of words. We’ll get to those later.

Transgress, one of those words I don’t think we use enough, showed up in the late fifteenth century from the Middle French transgresser, and before that the classical Latin transgressus, to cross, as in transgress. It comes from the verb transgredi, step across, pass, or transgress, and although we use it more metaphorically these days, it can also be quite literal. See, trans- means across or beyond (well, it does here, anyway) and combined with to walk, it’s to walk across. If you walk across someone, you’re transgressing them.

Speaking of words we don’t use enough, egress showed up in the mid sixteenth century from the classical Latin egressus, gone out or departure, and I’m sure you see where this is going. It’s from egredi, to go or to go out, and the e- is from ex-, out. To walk out. It makes sense! Plus there’s also ingress, where the in- is from en-, which means…in. To walk in!

Yep, this word is part of it, too. Aggression showed up in the seventeenth century, and then later on words like aggressor and aggress (yes, that’s a word) formed. It’s from the French aggression, which is from the classical Latin aggressionem, from aggressio, which could mean aggression or “going in at”. Like the other words, it’s from aggredi, to attack, and the a- comes from ad-, which means to. So the word is… to walk at.

You can’t make this stuff up.



  1. Walk this way...
    What happens if you run though?

  2. Do you ever think that English has too many words?

  3. I have been discovering more and more that there are too many things that I could never have made up and that I wish passionately were not things.

  4. I love to transgress, but not aggressively, although I could regress in that regard. If you don't like it, the egress is that way.


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