Thursday, April 2, 2020

Language Of Confusion: Take Your Seats, Part III

Okay, quick recap: all these words are related to the Proto Indo European sed-, to sit. That’s pretty much all you need to remember for this.

First today, preside, which also includes words that are related to it, like president, a word that fills me with an unyielding rage. Anyway. Preside showed up in the early seventeenth century, while president (there’s that rage again) was much earlier, showing up in the late fourteenth century. Preside is from the Modern French prĂ©sider, while president is from the Old French president and classical Latin praesidentum, but both words can be traced to the Latin verb praesidere, to preside. See, it literally means to sit in front of. The prae- is from pre, before, and the rest is from sedere, to sit. To sit before. Now let’s move on to another word before I smash my computer screen.

Subside showed up in the late seventeenth century, although it originally meant to sink to the bottom. In the early eighteenth century, it started to mean liquid surfaces sinking to a lower level, and from there it meant to be reduced, which makes sense, kind of. As for its origin, it’s from the classical Latin subsidere, which meant to sink, fall down, or crouch, with the sub- prefix meaning under and the rest coming from sedere. So it’s to sit under something.

Now, I already did residence, so there’s not going to be much that’s new here when we look at reside. It showed up in the late fifteenth century, from the Middle French resider and classical Latin residere, to settle. Nothing new here. The re- means back or again, and sedere, to sit. To reside is to sit again. I mean, if you’re going to reside somewhere, you’ll be sitting there a lot.

Time for something fun: insidious. It showed up in the sixteenth century, coming from the Middle French insidieux and classical Latin insidiosus, insidious, crafty, or deceitful. It’s from insidiae, treachery, and its verb form is insidere, which means… sit on, roost, or occupy. Okay, that took a weird turn, but the in- prefix means in, so insidious is from a word that literally means to sit in. But figuratively, it had the connotation of lying in wait, so that’s why we have insidious.

Finally today, we’re looking at dissident. It showed up in the mid sixteenth century, coming straight from the classical Latin dissidentem, difference or variance. Its verb form is dissidere, to vary, differ, or disagree, because dis- means apart. The word is “to sit apart” which is what you do when you’re a dissident.



  1. The link between preside/president and sit is quite interesting!

  2. Glad that word doesn't make me angry.
    Insidious seems like an odd word in this mix.

  3. The last two are a bit of a stretch.

  4. They all actually seem to make sense for a change. Nothing too tricky or twisty about these ones.

  5. I had never considered how preside and president are alike. Interesting.

  6. Insidious is rarely used these days.


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