Thursday, January 15, 2015

The fall of Latin

The fall of Latin

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 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 be identical in substance or nature, 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, after reading those first three sentences, what cidere/cadere words occurred to you?

Big thanks to this week’s sources:  Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, & the OED.


  1. So a pesticide makes bugs fall down? I guess it does.

    I love the Italian word for falling: "cadenti", which obviously was part of the progression to our word "cadence." Sounds like something falling, doesn't it?

    When I was first driving around Italy, I wondered who these people were called the "Sassi Cadenti", because their name was on so many Italian country road signs.

    Turned out it meant "falling rocks".

    Later I named the royal family in my novel Food of Love, "Saxi-Cadenti" in honor of those rocks. With a little dig at the Saxe-Cobergs thrown in (the royal family who later changed their name to Windsor)

    We love to put in this stuff no reader will ever notice, but it keeps us amused, doesn't it?

  2. Anne - Ha! The true background of Maximus Saxi-Cadenti & his ilk revealed, right here on Wordmonger. Thanks! Maybe next week we'll learn why the infamous Tatiana was so named.

    1. It's Titiana. For some obvious reasons and some not-so obvious ones. Titian, the Renaissance artist, tended to paint large women, with large, know :-)

  3. Subside? Probably not. Only thing I could think of. Great words and I love Anne's "falling rocks" story. Very funny!

  4. Hey Christine,
    You are correct. As much as it sounds related, subside translates to "sit down". The -side part is related to sedentary & comes from the Latin word meaning "to sit". Thanks for popping by.

  5. It's so interesting to learn how all these words are related. I think I'll sit down with a glass of cider (completely unrelated) and ponder all this.

  6. An apropos quote from Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds: "The dominoes of moments, lined up symmetrically, then tumbling backward against the hazy and unsure push of cause, showed only that a fall is every object's destiny."