Thursday, February 2, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Verse, Part V

Now, you might be thinking all the words descended from the Proto Indo European wer-to turn or bend have been sane so far, and that’s not wrong. But that is only the beginning.
First, verge, which at least looks like verse with a G instead of an S. There’s both a noun and a verb version of the word, with the noun meaning edge or rim and the verb to tend or to incline. And those words are not related. To verge showed up in the seventeenth century from the classical Latin vergere, to turn, which is from wer-. The other verge? From the Latin virga, rod or stick, totally not related, though it seems the words have influenced each other over the centuries.
Plus there’s words that are just verge with a prefix. Converge showed up in the late seventeenth century, from the Late Latin convergere, to incline together. That’s literally what it means, too. Con- means together, and with vergere up there, it’s to turn together. Diverge, which has the opposite meaning, showed up in the mid sixteenth century comes from the Latin divergere, to diverge. The prefix here is dis-, apart, so to diverge is to turn apart.
You can see how verse relates to those words, right? Well how about vermin? It showed up in the fourteenth century from the Anglo French/Old French vermin, from the Vulgar Latin verminum, all of which mean vermin or bothersome insects. That can be traced to the classical Latin vermis, worm, and yes, worm is from there. Though interestingly enough, our word worm comes from the Old English wurm/wyrm, from the Proto Germanic wurmiz. That’s from the Proto Indo European word for worm, wrmi-, which is from ver-. So worm comes to us from our Germanic roots rather than Latin.
And there’s more! Vortex showed up in the mid seventeenth century, directly taken from the Latin vortex. That’s from a familiar word, vertere, which we went over the previous weeks, and is of course from wer-. Makes sense! A vortex turns! But what about warp? Yes, warp. As it turns out, warp initially meant to bend, twist, or distort, or as a noun, the threads running through fabric. It was astrophysics in 1947 who started using it as the word for the bending of spacetime, and then Star Trek picked up on that, and now warp is usually used to mean transport rather than distort. Anyway, it comes from the Old English weorpan, to throw or pitch, from the Proto Germanic werpanan, and that’s from wer-. Throwing kind of turns things, so now we have warp.
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
Dictionary of Medieval Latin
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Fordham University
Orbis Latinus


  1. I am familiar with warp and weft, and I've still used warp as in something isn't coming out right. But yeah, warp and faster than light travel is kind of a weird stretch.

    Completely off topic: did you know emoji literally means "picture character"? The guy who created them came up with the name. (Obviously he's Japanese.)

  2. I think the warp thing makes sense. To warp something means to bend or alter it. Warp speed is a speed that bends or changes time and space. It's not a huge shift in meaning.


Please validate me.