Precio, the Spanish word for ‘price,’ evolved directly from the synonymous Latin noun pretium. It’s natural to assume that English price traces back to the same Latin source, and so it does, via the intermediary of Old French pris. There’s a surprise, though, in the form of an English doublet, praise. Middle English preise was based on the Old French verb preisier, which developed from Late Latin pretiāre ‘to prize,’ which had been coined on the root of pretium. To praise, then, is etymologically to attach a price to something as a token of its worth. But wait: prize itself came into being as a variant of Old French pris, so we’re really dealing with English triplets. Praise be to etymology.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. navasolanature
    Aug 21, 2016 @ 03:01:31

    Fascinating and precioso!


  2. shoreacres
    Aug 23, 2016 @ 18:10:24

    It took me a while to sort through the meanings, but I think this construction works: “She appraised the prize, setting a price she knew would be appreciated.”

    Appreciate was a hunch, but the OED seemed to connect it, and eventually carried me from appreciate to appraise, where I found this interesting tidbit: “Original English spelling apprize altered by influence of praise.

    I always appreciate these opportunities to have fun with words!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Aug 23, 2016 @ 19:34:49

      Well, you came to the right place to have fun with etymology. Your sentence works nicely, with four descendants of Latin pretium. You may have apprehended that our modern verb apprise is from a different source and is in fact related to apprehend.


  3. Maria F.
    Aug 23, 2016 @ 18:34:34

    This makes me think of my car’s recent ‘appraisal’ for an insurance company, when the ‘appraiser’ came to visit me!


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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