Thursday, June 13, 2019

Language of Confusion: Whatever The Case May Be, Part II

If you’ll remember from last week, the two versions of case (situation and container) are from different origins. This week, we’re looking at words related to the first version, which descended from the Proto Indo European kad- (to fall) and also gave us casual and casualty. Because words.

First of all, a lot of words with “-cid-” in them are from kad-. Accident, incident, recidivist, deciduous… all from kad-. Accident showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French accident and classical Latin accidentem, from the verb accidere, to befall. The a- is from ad-, to, and the -cidere is from cadere, to fall, from kad-. An accident befalls someone.

Incident showed up in the early fifteenth century from the Old French incident (we’re just blatantly copying from them now) and the classical Latin incidentem (incident) from incidere, to fall. And again, that’s from cadere. The in- actually means on here, meaning this word is more like “to fall on”. It’s weird how words can mean the same thing when you look at the parts of them, but when you look at the whole it’s completely different.

Now, recidivist showed up in 1863, from the French (that is, Modern French) récidiver, which means something like fall back or backslide. It’s from the Medieval Latin recidivare, relapse into sin, from the classical Latin recidivus, fall back in the sense of recurring or returning. The verb form is recidere, fall back, with the re- meaning back or again. With cadere, it’s to fall back again. Pretty accurate definition of recidivism.

Now the one that I was really wondering about: deciduous. It showed up in the late seventeenth century from the classical Latin deciduus, that which falls down, from decidere, to fall down or drop. The de- means down in this case (pun not intended), and with cadere, it’s to fall down. And because some trees have leaves that fall down every year, they are called deciduous. Ugh, it’s unsettling when things make sense.

I had hoped to finish all the words related to this particular case, but after all this I’m only about halfway done. So I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until next week.

This is definitely going to be a long series. Like, if this series was a walk in the woods, I would suggest you bring a tent.



  1. I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere, but it's too early and I don't know what it is.

  2. And how often do we use the term recidivist?

  3. Recidivist and deciduous are related?!? Wow. Things that one doesn't expect.

  4. How weird that these words are all related!


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