Thursday, January 5, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Verse, Part I

Kind of a redo, as I’ve done -verse before, but there are just SO MANY more words that are related that I’ve never gotten to. Seriously, this series is going to take at least two months, and what better way is there to start the year off?
Verse first showed up in Old English, coming from the Anglo French/Old French vers, from the classical Latin versus. Which, you know, means versus, or just plain verse. It’s from the Proto Indo European wer-, to turn or bend (there’s actually another wer- that is totally unrelated). That sounds weird, but apparently wer- was related to plowing and “turning” from one row to another, which was metaphorically applied to lines of writing.
That wer- really gets around, but this week, we’ll focus on words with verse in them. Adverse showed up in the late fourteenth century (adversary actually showed up a little earlier and adversity even before that in the thirteenth century). It comes from the Old French advers/avers, from the classical Latin adversus, against. The ad- means to, and the rest is from the verb vertere, to turn. When you’re against someone, you’re turning to them to face off, right? Averse is weirdly different for only being one letter off. It showed up in the mid fifteenth century from the Old French avers, and Latin aversus, turned away. The a- here comes from ab, off or away from, so averse is basically the opposite of adverse.
Converse showed up in the mid fourteenth century from the Old French converser, from the classical Latin conversari, to converse. The prefix con- means with, so with vertere the word is “to turn with”. I guess you’re turning with someone if you’re conversing with them?
Transverse showed up in the early fifteenth century, actually after transversary, which isn’t even a word anymore. It’s straight from the Latin transversus, across, where trans means across and the rest is from vertere. Transverse is to turn across, which is the first one of these to keep a literal meaning to it.
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
Fordham University


  1. What about verse as in music? Or is that coming? Or totally unrelated?

  2. Same question as Alex. When you said it means "verse", I wondered if you meant songs.


Please validate me.