A falling out

The Latin verb cadere meant ‘to fall,’ and as it developed into Spanish the d between vowels weakened and eventually fell out of the word, resulting in caer (from which the original final vowel has also fallen off). Because cadere was such a basic Latin word, it entered into compounds bearing many of the most familiar prefixes. For example, a post on August 10, 2011, discussed Spanish recidiva and English recidivism, both offshoots of Latin recidere ‘to fall back’ (Latin verbs often changed their stressed vowel when a prefix got added). Latin incidere ‘to fall into or onto’ has given us incidente/incident.

Many words have come down to us from Latin compounds bearing the prefix con-, that like its Spanish descendent meant ‘with, together with.’ When the Romans added that prefix to cadere they created the verb concidere, which had various meanings. The ones listed in The Oxford Latin Dictionary are:

(of men and other animals) to fall down, esp. in dying

(of buildings, trees, etc.) to fall down in ruins, to collapse

to lose one’s power or authority

(of cities) to be captured, fall

to be insufficient, fail, give out

to subside or become quiet

It’s natural to wonder, then, why this verb lost its authority, subsided, and fell out of the developing Romance languages, and why we haven’t even gone back to the original Latin to borrow some form of the word. We have no verb *concidir/*concide, no adjective *concidente/*concident. What we do have, indirectly, is coincidir/coincide, where the prefix in- falls in between the co(n)- and the root: to coincidir/coincide is etymologically ‘to fall into together.’ If your fancy coincides with mine, let’s start a campaign and begin using the verb *concidir/*concide as if it existed.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whilldtkwriter
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 09:05:57

    An example word for “falling off” is deciduous. (Note the syllable “cid”.) From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deciduous:
    1: falling off or shed seasonally or at a certain stage of development in the life cycle
    2a : having deciduous parts
    Origin of DECIDUOUS
    Latin deciduus, from decidere to fall off, from de- + cadere to fall — more at chance
    First Known Use: 1688
    (No language correlation with the “cid” syllable and El Cid–The Lord/Chief.)


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 23, 2012 @ 12:27:48

      Our brains must be connected: once again you’ve anticipated me. The next post will deal with deciduous and some other related words. When I see that I’m going to have too a long post, I split it up into parts.


  2. dianeandjack
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 13:32:43

    So cool! I hadn’t connected to the cid in deciduous! I just love you posts Steve!


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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