Thursday, August 19, 2021

Language Of Confusion: -Tempt, Redux

Another redo, since it’s easier than coming up with original ideas and I’m totally sliding into vacation mode.
Tempt showed up in the thirteenth century, specifically meaning to tempt someone to sin before coming into more general use. It comes from the Old French tempter and classical Latin temptare, to test. That’s actually from another Latin word, tentare, which also just means test; they just changed the N to MP for no discernable reason.
Attempt showed up in the late fourteenth century, coming from the Old French atempter/atenter. Yes, more of that N-MP switch. It’s from the classical Latin attemptare, to try, a mix of ad-, to, and temptare, to test—and since a try is a type of test, this word is kind of redundant. To try to is definitely an attempt, though.
Contempt also showed up in the late fourteenth century, originally referring only to disobedience of law or authority before being adapted to a more general use in the next century. It comes from the Old French contempt and classical Latin contemptus, which means contempt or scorn. That’s from the verb contemnere, to despise, a mix of the prefix com-, thought to be intensive here, and temnere, scorn. But as you might notice, temnere is not related to temptare. Contempt is not related to the other tempt words at all!
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center


  1. Contempt is one of my go to responses for many situations.

  2. Of course they're not related. Because why would that make sense?


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