Thursday, February 4, 2021

Language Of Confusion: Pere-ing Down, Part II

We’re once again going to be looking at words that are from the Proto Indo European root pere-, which means to produce or procure. Last week you could kind of see it. This week on the other hand…
First, the word empire, and of course everything relating to it, like emperor and imperial. It showed up in the mid fourteenth century, coming from the Old French empire and classical Latin imperium, which means government. The verb form of the word is imperare, to rule, a mix of the prefix in-, in, and parare, which as we learned last week means prepare.
Next, imperative. It showed up in the mid fifteenth century as a noun and the early sixteenth century as an adjective, from the Late Latin imperativus, pertaining to a command. It’s verb form is none other than imperare, so yes, it’s pretty closely related to empire, even though you probably wouldn’t think of them being related. I guess having an imperative is commanding, though.
Disparate showed up in the seventeenth century, coming from the classical Latin disparatus, from the verb disparare, divide or separate. The dis- means apart, and parare… well, you should know by now. Disparate is to prepare apart. No, not really following the logic there. The theory is that it was influenced by a completely unrelated Latin word, dispar, which means unlike. It’s kind of funny that separate is from the same root word. It showed up in the late fourteenth century from the classical Latin separatus, separate, verb form separare, to separate. Se- is a not often used prefix meaning apart, and with parare, this means this word is also to prepare apart. My eyes are rolling back into my head right now.
Next, repertory, which of course means repertoire is also related. Repertory showed up in the mid sixteenth century meaning an inventory or list, from the classical Latin repertus, found, and its verb form reperire, to find. The re- is just intensive here, but the perire is from parire, which actually means fertile, of all things. But it is from the PIE pere- also, and being fertile does equal production. It’s just weird that repertory is from a word meaning fertile. I mean, it’s far from the weirdest origin I’ve found, but it’s still strange.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Orbis Latinus


  1. Repertory isn't a word you hear often anymore.

  2. So interesting that these words that are so different in meaning all come from the same root!

  3. Etymology is... I don't know. Why do we even bother?
    I mean, if animals evolved the way words do, we'd be in real trouble.

  4. Well, an empire is kind of procured...


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