Thursday, September 23, 2021

Language Of Confusion: -Sume, Redux

Another redo! I’ll slowly get through all the ones not up to my standards just in time to redo them all again. It’s the perfect plan to never have to come up with ideas again!
Resume—the verb, not the noun that has the accents over the e’s, which came centuries later—showed up in the fifteenth century as resumen, where it meant reposses or take something back before meaning to continue something. It comes from the Old French resumer and classical Latin resumere, which could mean resume or take up again. The re- means again, so that’s where that comes from, and the rest is sumere, to take—to take again is to resume. But sumere is actually a prefixed word itself, with the su- coming from sub-, up from under and emere, to take or buy. So to resume is… to take up from under again?
Assume showed up in the early fifteenth century meaning to take upon oneself, then in the late sixteenth century the definition we know it as. It comes from the classical Latin assumere/adsumere, to assume, to take up, or to take also. The prefix as- is from ad-, to, toward, or up to, so with the full definition of sumere, this word is really “to take up and under to”. Okay, maybe to take upon oneself makes sense, but I have no idea how we got the rest of assume from that.
Next, presume actually came a bit earlier than the other two, in the late fourteenth century, and it actually meant what it does today. It comes from the Old French presumer and classical Latin praesumere, which could mean presume or rely on or take for granted—again, pretty much what it means today. The prae- means before, so this word is something like “to take up from under before”. Which does kind of make sense. You take for granted before that you’re taking this thing. And you’re taking it up from under, I guess.
Finally today, consume showed up in the late fourteenth century, meaning “to destroy something by separating it into parts which cannot be reunited”, so it’s what we use it for. It comes from the Old French consumer and classical Latin consumere, to consume, no big changes here. The con- is from com-, which here is thought to be intensive since it generally means with or together. So consume is just another way to say to take up from under. And somehow that means consuming something. With it’s with/together prefix somehow meaning to take apart.
Try not to think about it too much.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center


  1. I guess back then there were a lot of things coming to get people from under.

  2. Love the origin of consume! Some words are just cool.

  3. Are you out of ideas again? I'll have to think of something you can use.

  4. Now I'm totally distracted by the idea that zoomers are really sumers.
    Shut up. I can't stop my brain.

  5. Assume and presume can be confusing.


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