Confiding in etymology

The previous post dealt with some words based on the root of the Latin noun fidēs, including Spanish fe and its French-derived English cognate faith. Now let’s look at some other relatives, and let’s begin by mentioning confiar/confide and the associated nouns confianza/confidence. With a different prefix, Spanish afianzar means ‘to fortify, strengthen, brace, steady, stabilize,’ for which the English cognate is the little-used and different-meaning affiance ‘to betroth.’ Much more common in English are the French-derived fiancé ‘betrothed man’ and fiancée ‘betrothed woman’ (though it’s common to find people incorrectly writing fiancée, or more likely fiancee without the accent, even for a man).

From Latin fidēlis Spanish has fiel, with the doublet Fidel serving as a name. For that adjective English attaches a native suffix to Anglo-Norman-derived faith to make faithful. The Latin noun fidēlitās has given us fidelidad/fidelity, and, via Old French, English has the doublet fealty ‘loyalty promised to a king or queen.’

All these words trace back to the Indo-European root *bheidh- ‘to trust, confide, persuade.’ The American Heritage Dictionary says that that root most likely gave rise to the native English verb bide, which would originally have had the sense ‘to await trustingly.’ The verb is largely archaic now, with its main sense being the one in the phrase bide one’s time. From bide came the compound abide, which has carried forward some of the original meanings of bide: ‘to dwell, remain in a place, endure.’ Abide has added a new sense, ‘to put up with, tolerate,’ which is most common when the verb is used negatively.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim in IA
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 17:59:40

    We inherited The Roots of English by Robert Claiborne. Do you know of and use it for your research?


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jan 05, 2014 @ 18:22:59

      I did buy that book some years ago so I could see what sort of treatment Claiborne gave to the subject. I looked just now to see what his sources were, and I found that he relied heavily on the etymologies in the American Heritage Dictionary, just as I do (now from a more recent edition than the one available when Claiborne compiled his book).


  2. Tropical Flowering Zone/Maria
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 18:17:55

    There’s also ‘porfiar’ which means to bother or annoy someone. ‘Bonafide’ had not alteration.


  3. shoreacres
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 22:26:45

    I just realized it’s been some time since I’ve heard Adeste, Fidelis sung during the Christmas season. On the other hand, one of my friends stays in contact with a nun who taught her in grade school, decades ago – Sister Fidelis.

    In a slightly different vein, it was common to hear people around Victoria and south Texas say things like, “I can’t abide that woman.” And, I’ve heard those with Scottish ancestry invite visitors to linger by saying, “Come bide a wee”. If you do a search, you can find numerous lodgings making use of the phrase, like this Bide-a-Wee Inn in California.


  4. Steve Schwartzman
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 23:20:52

    So your friend has maintained her fidelity to Sister Fidelis. I heard “Adeste, Fideles” this past Christmas season, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the phrase “high fidelity” that used to be so common in the age of 33 rpm records.

    Your south Texas statement is just the sort of thing I had in mind when I referred to the common use of abide in the negative. My main positive association with the word is from the hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte, apparently just three weeks before he died of tuberculosis in 1847. The music that usually accompanies it is by William Henry Monk:


    • shoreacres
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:11:20

      A lovely version. Hymnody is interesting. This hymn was a part of my childhood, sung often in the Methodist churches. On the other hand, the Lutheran congregations I’ve known rarely have included it. Perhaps Lyte’s Scottish roots made him a better fit for followers of the English Wesleys than for the German Luther.

      I’m surprised that I’d completely forgotten hi-fi, and its friend, LP. Now I remember my dad’s first cabinet hi-fi. It had two sections meant for storage of LPs. I was free to use it, and to play whatever I wanted – but woe unto me if I put a record back in the wrong place or, even worse, allowed one to stay on the turntable.


      • Steve Schwartzman
        Jan 09, 2014 @ 10:47:35

        I played a Joan Baez LP last week and was reminded (by comparison to a CD or DVD) how much of an SP (short play) each side of an LP was. We used to have to turn over our records, but the music industry is turning over a new leaf and making everything downloadable. If Phil Everly were still around—he died last week—the brothers could sing a chorus of “Bye bye discs.”


Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


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: