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

Wiktionary > Whitaker’s

I’d like to offer the argument that Wiktionary is the top Latin dictionary available online. I’m sure I’ll meet with the same skeptics who consider Wikipedia an amalgam of amateurs. Let’s fight about it. Here’s my argument.

Wiktionary is superior to two specific alternatives: Whitaker’s Words and Lewis and Short (under Perseus).

Wiktionary is easier to navigate than Perseus or Whitaker. Perseus is notoriously slow, and its entries aren’t incredibly readable. Whitaker is more straightforward, yet demands that I open two windows, which seems unnecessary. There’s no reason a search bar can’t also appear on the results page for further searches.

Wiktionary beats these two because it’s fast and offers a friendly interface.

Like Lewis and Short, it’s pretty good about idiomatic meanings, and it’s OK (just OK) with specifying special case usage and constructions. It’s also often great on etymologies–even pre-Latin etymologies. Admittedly, Lewis and Short are better at both of these features, which is why–I imagine–the link to their entry (under Perseus) is often included at the bottom of each Wiktionary entry. There’s really no need to start with Perseus if you don’t have to.

Whitaker’s Words has a lot of mysterious notation explaining the way in which it parses words (none of which is explained on the site, so far as I can tell). As soon as the site completes its project on era/period frequency, it might be a much better site.

Wiktionary also bests both of them by offering you conjugations and declensions (we’re talking full parses) without asking. They’re just right there on the page. Even better, it’s minimized to begin with, so if you’re a purist and you want to guess the form without the parse, or your just want to scroll down the page a little faster, you won’t encounter opposition.

Wiktionary also shows derived compounds within Latin, and descendant words within other languages. It’s great!

Wiktionary is also the only option to make macrons available everywhere(If you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of the macron.)

Of course, if I type ‘lego’ into the search bar, the page includes both legō (to read, etc.) and lēgō (to dispatch), with all the same perks.

Exceptions for using Lewis and Short: (a) where Wiktionary fails to find an idiom or rare usage and (b) where I need to know era/period frequency.

Exception for using Whitaker’s Words: where I have the English and I want the Latin. I haven’t found a better English-to-Latin Thesaurus just yet. Perseus performs this function (in a round about way, and at a snail’s pace). Any recommendations?

Maybe my argument didn’t convince you. Maybe you really like the ‘OLD’ way of doing things. I hate dragging myself to a bookshelf, and I can’t carry that thing to campus. Or, maybe you’re really excited about this:

I’ll stick with Wiktionary.