Thursday, July 2, 2020

Language of Confusion: Do-, Part II

Part two of looking at do-, the Proto Indo European suffix meaning to give that shows up in a lot of weird places. I mean, last week kind of made sense, but trust me. Things are getting weird.

First, let’s look at date. Um, not the fruit. That’s not related. Anyway! It showed up in the early fourteenth century meaning a time period (a romantic date didn’t come about until 1885). It’s from the Old French date, Medieval Latin data (gee, why does that sound familiar?), and the classical Latin datus, which means given. So it originally meant given, which makes sense considering do- means to give, but the evolution from that to a time is weird. Apparently, it was because the Romans ended their correspondence with the word “given”, and then the day and month, possibly as in given to be messaged on that time. And because of that, date means time.

Now, data showed up later, in the mid seventeenth century, also from datum and its verb form dare, to give. Originally it meant “a fact given as the basis for calculation in mathematical problems”, so data was basically a math theorem, and then in 1897, it meant “numerical facts collected for future reference”, which is more or less what we still use it as. Kind of funny to think that data, which we use so m uch these days, is only about 120 years old. Also in this vein, mandate. It showed up in the sixteenth century from the Middle French mandat and classical Latin mandatum, command. The man- part actually means hand, and the rest is from dare, to give, so it’s “to give by hand”. I guess a command is given by hand?

Next we’re looking at edition, which yes, really is related. Edition showed up in the early fifteenth century—edit actually showed up much later, in 1791. Originally it meant a version or translation, and then in the mid sixteenth century it was publishing. The word comes from the French ├ędition and classical Latin editionem, edition, from the verb edere, produce. The e- comes from ex-, out, and the rest is from dare. This means the word is to give out. Which… yeah, editions are given out.

Perdition showed up in the mid fourteenth century in a theological sense, and then in a general sense a little after. It’s from the Old French perdicion and Late Latin perditionem, ruin or destruction. In classical Latin, it’s the verb perdere, to destroy or waste or lose, with the per- meaning through and the rest from dare. To give through means destruction? That doesn’t really make sense. I’d like to know what the Romans were thinking with that one.



  1. Well, the Romans liked to party so they could've been higher than a kite at the time.

  2. The date-data relation is interesting. Liked this one!

    1. This comment was from me. I wasn't logged in, and it went as "Unknown"!

  3. So interesting how words that don't seem to have anything in common come from a common ancestor.

  4. It's always so interesting to see where one word in latin ends up in English and other languages.


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