Thursday, May 5, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Extreme Junction, Part I

This was inspired by Pradeep, who mentioned the word junction in one of his posts and got me going down a rabbit hole. And it’s another long multi-part series, because I never learn.
Junction showed up in 1711, a specific year, that’s how recent it was. Of course, back then it meant “act of joining”, and it wasn’t until 1836 that it came to mean two things coming together—in fact, it was first used that way in American English to refer to railroad tracks, and it spread from there. The word comes from the classical Latin iunctionem, connection or joining, from the verb iungere, to join. The reason for the iu at the beginning is because it refers to the Y sound, which used to be symbolized by the letter J before Italian used it to mean the soft J sound. Then the pronunciation of the word changed to fit the spelling, because that makes total sense.
Iungere there comes from the Proto Indo European root yeug-, to join, which is the origin for so many words that have something to do with joining. Injunction is pretty obvious, though interestingly it showed up in the early fifteenth century, so before junction. It comes from the Late Latin iniunctionem, a command, from the classical Latin iniungere, to impose. The in- means on- and comes from the Proto Indo European root en, and with iungere, to join, making injunction “to join on” or more figuratively to join together. Somehow that makes less sense than I expected, and I promise, my expectations were not high.
Also obviously related is juncture, which showed up in the late fourteenth century and first meant a place where two things are joined, before also meaning the act of joining together and then a point in time (as in, “at this juncture”, which is really confusing if you think about it). It comes from the classical Latin iunctura, combination or joining, which is of course from iungere. Makes more sense than the last ones.
Next, joint, both the part of a body and the adjective version. It showed up in the fourteenth century as the place where two bones meet, from the Old French joint, which is from the classical Latin iunctus, connected. The adjuctive showed up a bit later, in the early fifteenth century meaning united or sharing (and possibly where the slang term for pot came from). It comes from the Old French jointiz, which is from joint, so no huge leaps here. Disjointed showed up in the late sixteenth century, first metaphorically as a synonym for incoherent and then literally separating joints. It comes from the Old French desjoint, from the classical Latin disiungere, to disengage, a mix of dis-, lack of or not, and iungere. Disjointed is NOT joined together. How sensible.
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. Will part two have conjunction? Or is that one totally unrelated? Not surprising if it is...

  2. Of course the Y-->J pipeline also explains some names that can start with Y or J. I run into a few of those frequently.

  3. Thank you, for following up on my post and coming up with this etymology piece. It's interesting that the word is of relatively recent origin.


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