Thursday, January 19, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Verse, Part III

We’re back to looking at words related verse, which is from the Proto Indo European wer-, to turn or bend. This week, words with -vert in in them, which I have also done before, and now I’m doing it again along with some -verse words they’re related to.
Avert showed up in the mid fifteenth century, around the same time as averse, actually. Why is it vert instead of verse? Well, first of all, it comes from the Old French avertir (slightly different from averse’s origin), and that’s from the Vulgar Latin advertire. That’s from the classical Latin avertere, to turn away, the origin for averse, with the a- from ab-, off or away from, and the vertere meaning to turn.
Those words at least kind of seem related—avert is turning away, and averse is a more metaphorical turning away from something you’re against. But what about converse and convert? Convert showed up in the fourteenth century, specifically related to religious conversion. It’s from the Old French convertir, from the Vulgar Latin convertire, and classical Latin convertere, which is just to convert. And yes, converse can be traced back to that too, it’s just a longer journey. The con- prefix means with or together, and with vertere, converting is turning together. Uh, I guess. And that’s also a conversation?
Divert also seems weird when compared to diverse. It showed up in the early fifteenth century, from the Old French divertir and classical Latin divertere, just divert. Diverse is actually older, having shown up in the late fourteenth century—and in actuality, it’s older than that, as it used to be spelled divers in the late thirteenth century. It’s from the classical Latin diversus, different, which is also from divertere, with the prefix from dis-, meaning aside, so diverting is turning aside. Apparently the diverse means being turned all different ways—having a lot of differences.
Invert is relatively recent, having shown up in the sixteenth century, with inverse only being slightly older, from the mid fifteenth century. Invert is from the Old French invertir and classical Latin invertere, invert, while inverse is from inversus, upside down, the past participle of invertere. The in- here is from en and just means in, so to invert is to turn in, which I guess makes sense for inverting something.
Finally today, two -vert words that are obviously paired. Introvert showed up in the mid seventeenth century while extrovert was used off and on but not firmly in the lexicon until 1916 (and at first was spelled with an A instead of an O). Intro- means inward or inside, while the extro- is from extra- and means outside. Introverts turn inside, extroverts turn outside. And psychologists used the words to describe people, so that’s why we have them.
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
Encyclopaedia Britannica


  1. Convert rates as a negative word to me.

  2. These words with the suffix -vert and -verse are quite interesting! I never knew this relationship between the two.

  3. I had never considered the vert and vers as similar, but of course they are.

  4. They all mean turning away from something, so mostly related.

  5. Well, that all makes sense, I think...


Please validate me.