Take a look at the following words and ask yourself how they might possibly share a common root:
fairy prophet fame ban
infant confess fable
beckon affable nefarious
I must admit, given this list, I wouldn’t have a clue.
The common root here is the Proto-Indo-European word bha-, to speak.
The word ban showed up in Old English about the same time Old English showed up. Ban came to us through Old High German from a Proto-Germanic word meaning banish, expel or curse (all actions which must be spoken). Like the rest of the words on this list, it seems to have started with bha-, to speak.
Beckon showed up in Old English about the same time through a West Saxon & possibly Old High German word meaning to make a mute sign or to speak without words.
Prophet appeared in English in the late 1100s through Latin from a Greek word meaning one who speaks for the gods.
Fairy showed up in English in 1300, through a Latin word meaning that which is fated, & of course, for anyone to know something is fated, it must first be spoken of.
Fame showed up in the early 1200s through Old French from a Latin word meaning talk, rumor, report, good reputation.
Affable – came from Old French through a Latin word meaning one who can be easily spoken to. It appeared in English in the 1400s.
Infant appeared in English in the 1300s from a Latin word meaning unable to speak (the in- meaning not & the fant meaning speak).
Confess came from Old French from a Vulgar Latin word meaning speak together or admit. Like infant, it arrived in the 1300s.
Fable also showed up in the 1300s through Old French from a Latin word meaning spoken narrative.
Nefarious appeared in English in the 1600s from a Latin word meaning wicked crime. In this case, the ne- negates the root fari-, which meant divinely spoken, which suggests that a crime is an activity a higher power has forbidden.
All from a little old word (actually, a little VERY old word) meaning speak.
I’m hoping you might click on the word “comments” below & let me know where your brain went when asked the initial question in this post.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Collins Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.
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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