The last post dealt with a few descendants of the Latin verb fugere ‘to flee’ and the noun fuga ‘the act of fleeing,’ so let’s continue. ‘A person who flees’ is a fugitivo/fugitive. Another offshoot is refugio/refuge, which is etymologically ‘[a place] to flee back [to].’ English has a doublet in Latin refugium, which is a biological term for (in the definition of the Oxford Dictionaries) ‘An area in which a population of organisms can survive through a period of unfavorable conditions, especially glaciation.’
There are other “fleeful” scientific relatives. A centrifugio/centrifuge is ‘a machine that spins and causes a substance placed within it to literally ‘flee the center.’ A febrifugio/febrifuge is ‘a medicine that causes a fever to flee,’ so to speak; a vermifugio/vermifuge does likewise for parasitic worms in the intestines. A calcifuga/calcifuge is ‘a plant that doesn’t grow well in calcium-rich soil.’
English calls ‘a person who flees in search of a refuge’ a refugee, while Spanish took the equivalent prófugo from a different compound of Latin fugere. With yet another prefix—Latin subter, whose literal meaning was ‘beneath’ and whose extended sense was ‘secretly’—we have subterfugio/subterfuge. The 1913 Webster’s defined the word as: ‘That to which one resorts for escape or concealment; an artifice employed to escape censure or the force of an argument, or to justify opinions or conduct; a shift; an evasion.’ Politician, thy name is Subterfuge.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman