Thursday, September 30, 2021

Language Of Confusion: -Mand, Redux

Yep, another one of these.
Mandate showed up in the sixteenth century as a noun and then became a verb in the seventeenth century. It comes from the French mandat (mandate) and classical Latin mandatum, command, so the definition has stayed pretty consistent. It’s from the verb mandare, to commit or order, because the man- is from manus, hand, and dare, to give. To commit to something is to literally give it into your hand.
Command showed up in the fourteenth century as a verb and then a century later as a noun because words are random like that. It’s from the Old French comander/comand, from the Vulgar Latin commandare and classical Latin commendare, which actually meant to recommend or entrust. So with mandare, to commit, and the prefix com- is thought to just be intensive here, the word is to really commit/order. Commend, which showed up in the mid fourteenth century is from the same place—it makes sense, how shocking—just with a little different origin as it doesn’t seem to have come to us from French. I guess that explains the difference of one letter? Of course recommend is from the same place, and it showed up in English in the late fourteenth century, so not long after commend. The re- is also believed to be intensive, meaning a recommendation is something you’re really totally committed to.
Demand showed up in the late thirteenth century as a noun and a century later as a verb, although back then the words were spelled demaunde/demaunden and they meant to question. They come from the Old French demander and classical Latin demandare, to entrust, with de- meaning completely. A demand is to order completely? I guess that makes some sense. The evolution of the word—the reason we demand stuff these days—is because in French it began to be used in a legal sense, to demand as a right, and that followed into English.
To remand showed up in the mid fifteenth century spelled remaunden and meaning to send something back, and much like demand, its definition changed because of legal influence, and it became to command to go to a place by law. At least that evolution makes some sense. It comes from the Anglo French remaunder and Old French remander, and before that the Late Latin remandare, to send back word or repeat a command. The re- means back here, unlike with recommend, and with mandare, the word is “to order back”. What a sensible origin.


  1. And how often does remand get used today?

  2. We were just doing demand (and supply) in economics class last week. (And I am now done with that class.)


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