More descendants of Latin cingere

The last post began with an observation that English has three separate words shingles, the relevant one being a descendant of the Latin verb cingere that meant ‘to bind, gird, encompass, enclose, surround.’ Now I’ll follow up by noting that English has two words enceinte, both taken from French. One is a euphemism (in English) for ‘pregnant’ (corresponding to Spanish encinta), while the other is an old noun designating ‘the inner ring of fortifications surrounding a town.’ That definition makes clear that this enceinte is an offshoot of Latin cingere. A descendant that Spanish and English share is precincto/precinct. Here’s the entry for the English word in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

(from Lat. praecingere, to encircle, enclose, surround, prae and cingere, to gird), an enclosure, a space within the boundaries, marked by walls or fences or by an imaginary line, of a building or group of buildings, especially used of such a space belonging to a cathedral or other religious building. The word is frequently used, indefinitely, of the neighbourhood or environs of a place or building. In the United States of America it is applied to various minor territorial divisions or districts, for electoral or judicial purposes. In some of the states they correspond to the “township” as the principal subdivision of the “county.”

For the sense of Spanish precinto, see the comment by Juan below.

Another offshoot of Latin cingere that Spanish and English share is sucinto/succinct. That adjective comes from the past participle of Latin succingere, formed with the prefix sub- ‘under,’ which meant ‘to gird from below.’ An early sense of succinct was ‘girded or tucked up; bound; drawn tightly together.’ From that came the notion ‘compressed into a narrow space,’ and then more generally ‘brief, concise.’

A Spanish descendant of Latin cingere for which English lacks an exact cognate is recinto, with prefix re- rather than pre-, which means ‘enclosure, area, place, district’ and even ‘precinct.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Advertisements

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Juan
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 18:17:46

    Interesting as always. A couple of comments:

    1. The spelling of encinta (English pregnant, from Latin incincta, that is, “with no belt”) is very often misinterpreted. Lots of Spanish speakers write *en cinta, as if it were an adverbial locution and thus invariable: *”una mujer en cinta”, *”dos mujeres en cinta”. Obviously it is wrong, but so frequent as well!

    2. Spanish does have a cognate for English precinct: precinto, which is not an enclosure, but can be the enclosing limit or the means by which we preserve something from pollution, alteration or manipulation. For instance: “El juez ha colocado un precinto en la puerta de la casa donde sucedió el crimen”. Also: “Si rompes el precinto de este paquete, ya no podrás devolverlo a la tienda”. There is also a verb, precintar: “El juez precintó la casa”; or “Si desprecintas este alimento, debes consumirlo pronto”.

    Regards!

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jul 03, 2013 @ 19:28:15

      Thanks for your contribution of *en cinta, which I haven’t encountered, but which reminds me of another misinterpretation: I once saw “Qué voy a ser?”, when the writer meant “Qué voy a hacer?”

      Thanks for correcting my mistake about precinto. The dictionary I was using didn’t include it, but I should have looked in other sources. I’ll go ahead and rewrite the text in my post. It’s good of you to give the examples you did.

      Reply

  2. Trackback: A Succinct Post on the Word Succinct » Review Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
%d bloggers like this: