Latin Derivatives: Direct and Indirect

I trust that if you’re reading this, you understand that many English words ‘are derived from’ Latin counterparts, though we can further distinguish this by stating that there are two varieties of derivation: direct and indirect.

Direct Latin derivatives (for instance ‘fact’ from the Latin factum) are more or less coequal adoptions, whereas indirect Latin derivatives (such as ‘feat’ from the French ‘fait’ from the Latin factum) feature a few sound shifts which echo the modifications of the mediating language. Another example: from dāta we have both ‘data’ (direct) and ‘date’ (indirect, through Old French ‘date’).

[A more interesting etymology, while we’re at at it: the English homograph ‘date’ (the fruit) is from the Old French ‘datte’ from the Old Provençal ‘datil’ from the Latin dactylus (the same fruit), so named because it resembled the human finger and/or because this word resembled the Semitic names for date palm: deqel/daqal, etc, which have nothing to do with fingers.]

If you’d like to rabbit-trail even further, here’s a post offering the Latin names of the five fingers, including the pinky finger, whose name made my day: (http://www.omniglot.com/blog/?p=442)

If anyone knows of a Latin derivative which is indirect but not mediated by French or Old French, I would love to see it in the comments below.

The Essential AG: 19n2

Answering ‘No.’

There are several ways to respond ‘no’ in Latin.

1. The first is to repetition the verb of the question and add nōn, which expresses denial.

  • Do you sing?—I do not sing: canisne?—nōn canō.
  • Does your father jog?—No, he doesn’t: currit parēns?—nōn currit.

2. As with affirmations, there are a number of places where this would get awkward, so the Romans have a variety of negating adverbs to replace the repeated verb.

  • Is this a frog?—no it is not: estne rana?—nōn est. (awkward)
  • Is this a frog?—nope. estne rana?—nōn.

There a set number of these adverbs, and they sometimes couple to form more emphatic responses.

  • nōn, no, not so
  • minimē, not at all
  • nūllo modō, by no means

Unlike the affirmations, negation responses are fairly homogenous in sense. ‘Nōn‘ is simple the tame counterpart to anything else. Some of the combinations have more a vibrant semantic character:

  • minimē vērō, certainly not
  • nōn quidem, no way!
  • nōn hercle vēro, oh, heavens no!

Some examples:

  • Is she as gorgeous as they say?—hell no. estne ut fertur in formā?—nōn hercle vēro.
  • Did you already take out the trash?—nope. stramenta exduxistī?—nōn factum.
  • Is he really so selfish?—Not at all! estne vērō tantum egoisticus?—minimē vērō.

The Essential AG: 336b

If you readers out there know of any other standard Latin ‘no’s feel free to add them below.

Answering ‘Yes’

The Romans did not possess a word of affirmation—a ‘yes’ that stands alone. Instead, they used one of two ways to express a positive answer to a question.

1. The first is to repetition the verb of the question, which implies affirmation.

  • Do you sing?—I sing: canisne?—canō.
  • Does your father jog?—Indeed, he does: currit parēns?—currit.

This repetition is particular useful with double questions, where it allows the respondent to clearly choose one of the two (or few) options.

  • Did you see it, or are you repeating something you have heard?—I saw it myself: vīdistī an dē audītō nūntiās?—egomet vīdī.

2. There are a number of places where this would get awkward, so the Romans have a variety of affirmative adverbs to replace the repeated verb.

  • Is her name Julia?—Yes it is: Iūlia eī nomen est?—nomen est. (awkward)
  • Is her name Julia?—Yes it is: Iūlia eī nomen est?—ita vērō.

There a set number of these adverbs, and they sometimes couple to form more emphatic responses.

  • vērō, in truth, true, no doubt
  • etiam, even so, yes
  • ita, thusly, yes
  • sānē, surely, no doubt
  • certē, certainly, unquestionably
  • factum, true, so it is

Each of these has a its own flavor. ‘Factum‘ would be appropriate for past completed actions (think faciō), ‘certē‘ works both to affirm and to dispel the double of the questioner, whereas ‘vērō‘ is more of a calm rejoinder. Some combinations:

  • ita vērō, certainly
  • ita est, it is so
  • sānē quidem, absolutely

Some examples:

  • Is she as gorgeous as they say?—oh yes. estne ut fertur in formā?—sānē.
  • Did you already take out the trash?—I did. stramenta exduxistī?—factum.
  • Is he really so selfish?—He sure is. estne vērō tantum egoisticus?—ita vērō.

The Essential AG: 336a, 337

If you readers out there know of any other standard Latin ‘yes’s feel free to add them below.