The words cadaver, decay, accident, decadent, cascade & deciduous all share a source: the Latin verb cadere, meaning to fall.
I’m hoping your eyes just glanced back over that list of words, causing your brain to experience a satisfying little jolt. Given the opportunity, we can “see” the fall in each of those words.
Cadaver appeared in English in 1500, meaning dead body.
Decay, meaning to decrease, made it into English a few years earlier after a tour through Old French & Anglo-French.
Accident appeared in English in the 1300s, meaning an occurrence or incident. Its Latin root was accidentem, to happen, fall out or fall upon.
Decadent, meaning in a state of decline or decay, showed up in 1837, a back-formation of decadence.
Cascade, a synonym for waterfall, came to English in the 1640s through Italian, then French.
Deciduous, meaning that which falls off, showed up in English in the 1680s straight from Latin.
Next week we’ll take a look at some not-so-obvious descendants of this same root. In the meantime I’m hoping you’ll use the comments section to let me know whether your brain experienced that satisfying little jolt mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster & the OED
The Latin word meaning to fall is cadere. It’s sister word (a combining form with the same meaning), is cidere. Before reading on, sort through your brain’s language center for English words that have to do with falling & might have grown out of cadere or cidere.
Cascade, meaning waterfall, came to English in 1640 through Italian & French.
Cadence, meaning a flow of rhythm in music or verse, appeared in the 1300s through Middle French.
Decay showed up in the late 1400s through several varieties of French from the Latin decadere, to fall off.
Decadence arrived in the 1540s, meaning behavior that shows low morals.
Deciduous, meaning that which falls off, came to English in the 1680s straight from Latin. Originally, the falling items included petals, leaves and teeth. It wasn’t until the 1778 that deciduous referred to trees that drop their leaves (as opposed to evergeeens).
In 1705, the word coincide came to English straight from Latin, meaning to fall together, or to agree.
In the late 1300s accident was born, meaning an occurrence, incident, or event. Over the centuries, that simple event definition morphed to mean a chance event, & then a mishap.
And we’ll finish off with a real killer, the English noun marker –cide, also from cadere/cidere, an important element in pesticide, homicide, genocide, suicide, & many other English words, all suggesting some sort of fall.
Followers, can you come up with other cidere/cadere words? If so, please add them to this post in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, 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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