Going further back

The last post dealt with the botanical suffix -coria/-chory, which indicates a method of seed dispersal. That suffix was created from the Greek verb khōrein ‘to spread,’ from the noun khōros ‘a place, room.’ Now let’s go back further: it turns out that Greek khōros may be a suffixed descendant of the Indo-European root *gh, whose meaning was ‘to release, let go.’ Given the form and meaning of that root, we can see that it gave rise to one of the most basic of all native English verbs, go. Compounds based on go include ago, which tells how far back in time an event has gone away, and forgo, which is ‘to go without.’

While the connection of Greek khōros to the Indo-European root *gh isn’t conclusive, a suffixed form of that root is generally believed to have given rise to Latin hērēs, with archaic stem hērēd-, which meant ‘heir’ and from which we have inherited the verb heredar/inherit. In fact from Latin hērēs came Anglo-Norman heir, which passed with that spelling into English; the Spanish cognate, heredero, is descended instead from the archaic stem hērēd-. Although heredad/heredity and English heritage, which came from Old French, are related to all these words, it comes as a surprise to most people that Spanish herencia ‘inheritance, heredity, heritage, legacy’ is not related, although its current form was influenced by heredar. As etymology often enough shows, not all that glitters is gold.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 21:55:12

    Another example of glitter not being gold: “go-go”, as in “go-go dancing”. From what I can find, it derives from the French à gogo and has nothing to do with our verb “go”.

    As for “heir”, I’ll never hear the word now without thinking of a furniture maker and writer in Maine who lives with his wife and two home-schooled boys in a partially unheated Victorian house they’re “working on restoring”. The older boy is known as “The Heir”. The younger, age nine, is “The Spare”.

    Collectively, the Heir and the Spare make up the musical group Unorganized Hancock, which happens also to be the name of a Maine Township. The boys are beating the township in the google rankings.

    They’re self-taught, on equipment purchased with the help of their dad’s blog readers. And, they make their own videos. You can see what’s up here . I think I’m in love with the drummer.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 16, 2013 @ 22:41:48

      Right you are when it comes to the go-go in go-go dancing. It has nothing to do with the English go but is indeed from the French expression à go-go. That go-go, which goes-goes back centuries in French, is of unclear origin.

      I love the nomenclature of The Heir and The Spare. Someone has a great sense of humor.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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