Thursday, May 16, 2019

Language of Confusion: -Pelled, Part I

Okay, this started as me just looking at one word and kind of going down a rabbit hole. Bear with me here.

Appeal showed up in the early fourteenth century, although only in the legal sense—something didn’t appeal (as in, attract) until 1901! The word comes from the Anglo French apeler, to call upon or accuse, from the Old French apeler, make an appeal. Before that, it was the classical Latin appellare, to call, appeal to, or name. There’s another version of the word, appellere (yeah, with another E instead of the second A) which means to strive or prepare. The ad- means to and pellere means to beat or drive and can be traced to the Proto Indo European pel-, thrust or drive. It… kind of makes sense for appeal? It makes way more sense for all the other words that it’s a suffix to. But we’ll get to those in a bit. There’s another word I want us to look at first.

Repeal showed up in the late fourteenth century, another one from the Anglo French (maybe they’re the ones we have to thank for the extra A in the suffix). This time it’s from the word repeler, from the Old French rapeler, call back or revoke. The prefix re- means back and apeler is the same word as the one from appeal. So it’s to reverse an appeal.

But let’s go back to the pel- words. See, a long time ago, back when I first started doing these posts, I did words that ended in the suffix -pulse, compulsion and impulse, which are all from the classical Latin pellere. Because it was an early post, I glossed over things more than usual and didn’t even mention that it derived from pel-. But I’m saying it now: -pulse (and pulse) as well as the -pel words, are all from pel-. Dispel—the dis- means away, making the word “to drive away”. Compel—the com- means together, so it’s “drive together”. Impel—the im- is from en and means in so it’s “drive in”, like driving in an urge, I guess. Repel is much like repeal, except it came to us directly from Old French instead of Anglo French. The re- means away, so it’s “drive away”. And finally, propel, where the pro- means forward and the word itself is “drive forward.”

And just like that, I explained more in one paragraph than in an entire post. Anyway, tune in next week, because things are about to get crazy.



  1. More crazy than they already are?

  2. I wonder what made appeal switch from just a legal meaning. This makes me think of upset. How it only meant an emotion until the horse named Upset won over an expected winner (I think it was Seabiscut, but I could be wrong).

  3. I look forward to seeing just what's crazy.

  4. You have a pulse on crazy.

    Pulse is also a Pink Floyd album.

  5. Love it when things start getting crazy!


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