Reconnoitering further into the descendants of Latin gnoscere

The last couple of articles have dealt with descendants and relatives of Latin gnoscere ‘to know.’ The previous post ended with reconocer/recognize and recognition/reconocimiento. Of the many meanings of Spanish reconocer, one is military, with the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española defining it this way: ‘Examinar de cerca un campamento, fortificación o posición militar del enemigo.’ English speakers may recognize that meaning in reconnoiter, a verb borrowed from Old French reconoistre, the cognate of Spanish reconocer. English not only acquired the corresponding noun reconnaissance, but also the doublet recognizance, whose spelling shows influence from the Medieval Latin verb recognizare.

To reconquistar/reconquer is to conquer again, and to reinterpretar/reinterpret is to interpret again, but reconnoiter is one of those re- verbs in English for which dropping the prefix doesn’t leave a simpler verb: you can reconnoiter but you can’t connoiter—at least not in the standard language. That doesn’t stop some people from trying, though, and Urban Dictionary has this entry for connoiter:

the act of meeting up for a first time; the act that must first happen to allow a reconnoitering to happen;
Let[‘]s connoiter in the parking lot.
Brittany and I connoitered at the gas stastion [sic], split up and reconnoitered at her place.
So i went and connoitered with some friends and then went bowling.
I was connoitering earlier with Louis and then Lenny decided to connoiter as well.

Nice try, but no go.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 13:46:53

    All this talk of connoitering is hilarious!

    I’m going to have to go combobulate myself! (The same Urban Dictionary says I can!)


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 14:48:01

      Thanks, Linda, for your great follow-up about combobulate. The Online Etymology Dictionary notes that the original form was discombobricate, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, but which has the same ending as the Latin-derived words fabricate, lubricate, and imbricate (which I’ve learned through botany).


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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