Thursday, June 24, 2021

Language Of Confusion: -Cept, Redux, Part I

This is definitely going to be a multi-parter, since we’re not only looking at words that have -cept in them, but also words that end in -ceive, because they are related. How it got from a pt to a v I don’t know, and I’m sure there won’t be a satisfying answer.
First we’ll look at deceive, and all the words related to it. It showed up in the fourteenth century, as did deceit, while deception didn’t actually show up until the early fifteenth century. Deceive is from the Old French decevoir, while deceit is from deceite, which is of course from decevoir. The words are from the classical Latin decipere, which is just to deceive, which is also where we get deception, big shock. That word is a mix of de-, from, and capere, to catch or take, from the Proto Indo European kap-, to grasp. Deceiving is to take from someone’s grasp, in a metaphorical sense.
Conceive showed up in the late thirteenth century, conception in the early fourteenth century, then conceit in the late fourteenth century, and concept not until the mid sixteenth century. Not sure why we needed three different nouns for one verb, but there you go. Conceit comes from conceive, which comes from the Old French conceveir, while conception comes from concepcion, and concept skipped Old French all together. It’s actually from the Latin conceptum, concept, while conception is from conceptionem, and conceive is from the verb concipere, to conceive, and that’s the origin of the other versions of the word. The con- prefix means with, and combined with capere, conceive is to take with. Which… really doesn’t make sense for this word.
Next, receive. It showed up in the fourteenth century and reception showed up sometime after, in the late fourteenth century. All those words can be traced back to the classical Latin recipere, to receive, a mix of re-, which is thought to mean back here (but they aren’t sure) and capere, making receive “to take back”. As for why receipt has a p in it that we for some reason don’t pronounce, there’s no real reason for it. People just started spelling it with a p, probably influenced by Latin, but no one felt like actually pronouncing it. Oh, and recipe is also from this word. It actually showed up in the late sixteenth century meaning a formula for a medical remedy written by a physician. It didn’t mean a recipe for food until the early eighteenth century, and then it was dropped from medical usage. Though the reason “Rx” is used with prescription is because it really stands for recipe.
And… this one’s getting pretty long. I guess I’ll save the next bunch for next week.
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


  1. What's going on? Those all make sense and are actually related....

  2. Good to know about Rx. I wondered. I suppose recipe fell out of medical jargon when cooks started to use it because we all know how doctors are...

  3. Deceive pf course relates to standard operating procedures of the politician (homo sapiens politicus irritatingus).


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