The Latin word sistere means to cause to stand. Sistere has a pile of intriguing descendants. I’m saving my favorite for last.
You'd think sistere would be the root of sister. Nope. That's another post entirely.
Sistere gave us resist, which showed up in English in the 1300s. Resist is constructed of re-, meaning against + sistere. It means to hold out against.
Desist appeared in English in the 1400s & is constructed of de-, meaning off + sistere. Desist means to stand aside, leave off, or cease. I love the idea that its third meaning suggests that the phrase “cease & desist” is redundant.
Assist also came to English in the 1400s. Constructed of ad-meaning to + sistere, assist means to stand by, help or assist.
Consist came to English in the 1520s, meaning to stand or place together. Its parts are con-, meaning with or together + sistere.
Persist is made of per-, meaning thoroughly + sistere. Persist arrived in English in the 1530s. Persist means to continue steadfastly.
Insist, to persist or dwell upon, came into English in the 1580s. It’s constructed of in-, meaning upon, + sistere
Some less likely descendants of sistere include:
exist & existence
subsist & subsistence
And what was my motivation to focus on sistere & its progeny? I’m overly fond of one of sistere’s little-known descendants, resistentialism. Paul Jennings coined the word in 1948. Resistentialism is the seemingly spiteful behavior manifested in inanimate objects. Ever known a cranky lawn chair? A difficult stepladder? A recalcitrant printer or computer?
Dear readers, what recent experience have you had with resistentialism?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik, Etymonline. & NewYorkTimes.com
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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