Thursday, March 28, 2019

Language of Confusion: Can I Get A Witness? Part III

This week, it’s getting a lot more what-the-hell. And yet not as what-the-hell as it’s going to get. Remember, all these words trace back to the Proto Indo European weid- (to see) in some way.

Visage showed up in the fourteenth century from the Anglo French and Old French visage, face or portrait. It comes from vis, face, which is from the classical Latin visus, a sight. That’s from the verb videre, to see, which you would know if you read my previous posts.

Provide first showed up in the early fifteenth century from the classical Latin providere, to provide. The pro- prefix means forward, while videre means to see. To provide is to see forward, to plan ahead. The word purvey actually comes from the same place, just a different route. It showed up in the late thirteenth century from the Anglo French porveire/purveire and Old French porveoir, to provide. Which is also from providere. Purveying is also seeing forward!

Guise showed up in the late thirteenth century meaning a style or fashion of clothes, which from there morphed into mask or disguise in the sixteenth century. It comes from the Old French guise, manner, fashion, and was thought to be traced from the Proto Germanic wison, appearance or manner. So hey. Not all the words French stole were Latin. And that’s from weid-. Disguise is also from the same place. It showed up in the fourteenth century from the Old French desguiser, with the des- being from dis-, meaning away or off. A disguise is away from a guise.

Next, guide. Yes, really. It showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French guider. Much like guise, it’s Germanic in origin, from the Proto Germanic witanan, to look after or guard. The G (and I assume the G in guise) was influenced by Old Provençal (the dialects of the Provençal regions of France) guidar or the Italian guidare. I guess they liked their G’s.



  1. Guide is an odd relative but everything else lines up. So far...

  2. At one of the schools I go to, the 8th graders do a vocabulary thing every day. They're given a root word and then are asked to come up with related words. They would so not get many of these from weid.

  3. Guise is one of those rarely used ones.

  4. Interesting how these very different words are all related.


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