Thursday, August 10, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Stalled, Part II

The second and final part of words descended from the Proto Indo European root stel-, to stand or to put in order. It gave us still and stall, and a bunch of other words you wouldn’t think.
First we’re going to look at stole. But not like the past tense of steal, which is totally unrelated. No, like a stole you wear around your neck. It comes from the Old English stole, and before that the classical Latin stola, a robe or vestment. That’s from the Greek stole, which means like a uniform or costume, from the verb stellein, to place, which makes more sense than a garment a priest wears around their neck (the kind of stole women wore wasn’t named until 1889).
Next is stolid, which I don’t find surprising. It didn’t show up until the seventeenth century, though stolidity, which I’ve never heard anyone use, showed up in the mid sixteenth century. It comes from the French stolide (same meaning), from the classical Latin stolidus, which means… stupid. That’s from stultus, stupid or foolish, from the Proto Indo European stol-ido-, which is from stel-. Apparently a standing object or place was stupid? And that gave us stolid.
Not weird enough? How about apostle? It comes from the Old English apostol, apostle or messenger, from the Late Latin apostolus, Greek apostolos, messenger. The apo- means off or away from (we talked about that only a few weeks ago!), and the rest is stellein, which means to send in this sense. An apostle is someone sent away (with a message). Epistle of course has a very similar origin. It was epistol in Old English, from the Old French epistle/epistre, from the classical Latin epistola, aletter. That’s from the Greek epistole, letter or message, with the prefix here epi-, meaning to. Epistle means to send a message to.
Then there’s also pedestal. It showed up in the mid sixteenth century from the French piĆ©destal and Italian piedistallo. The pie means foot, the di means of, and the rest is from the Old Italian stallo, stall or place. That’s actually probably Germanic in origin, and definitely from stel-. A pedestal is where you place something.
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
Orbis Latinus


  1. Most of those I never would've guessed came from stalled.

  2. They all actually make senes when you think about it...


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