Thursday, May 19, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Extreme Junction, Part III

Lots more words related to the Proto Indo European yeug-to join. These ones… get a little more abstract.

First today, yoke, a word that actually kept the Y all these J words are supposed to have. It comes from the Old English geoc, yoke, which in spite of having a G, was pronounced something like yoke. It’s from the Proto Germanic yukam, which is from yeug-, so I guess it kept the Y sound because it’s Germanic instead of Latin.
Next, a word that gets weirder the more you think about it: jugular. It showed up in the late sixteenth century, referring to the veins in the neck before being specifically used as the name of one. It comes from the Latin jugularis, from the classical Latin iugulum, throat. That’s actually from iugum, yoke (though not related to the English yoke, of course). But it does make sense since the neck is the place where the head joins the body…
Another word with “jug” in it, subjugate, showed up in the early fifteenth century—subjugation actually showed up earlier, in the late fourteenth century. In any case, both words can be traced to the classical Latin subiugare, to subjugate, with sub- meaning under and the rest being from iugum. Well, you’re definitely subjugated if someone has your neck in a yoke.
But what about conjugate, which has to do with grammar and not necks? It showed up in the early sixteenth century, coming from the classical Latin coniugatus, which means—and I’m not making this up—a married man. The verb it’s from, coniugare, means to mate/marry or more literally, to yoke together. Guess we know what these people thought about marriage. See, the com- means together, and the rest is from iugum, and because verbs are “conjugated” by “joining together” parts of the verb with different roots (for example, the past tense of conjugate is the verb + -ed), it became a grammatical term. Conjugal is actually a much more literal use of the verb, though it actually showed up decades after conjugate.
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
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Old English-English Dictionary


  1. How conjugate got from married man to grammar... I bet there's a great story there that's lost to time.

  2. Marriage= yoke together. This explains many things.

  3. I see Rajani the spammer can't take a hint.


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