Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

To bind

To bind

The Latin word ligare meant to bind. Ligare gave birth to many modern words.

Oblige came to English about 1300, meaning to bind by oath. It came from ligare through French.

Delegate also came through French, starting in Latin as delagare to send as a representative, formed by adding the prefix de- (meaning from) to legare. It arrived in English in the 1500s, meaning representative.

League appeared in English in the 1100s, meaning confederacy. It came from the Middle French word ligue, which came from the Italian word lega, which came from the Latin word ligare.

Ligare also made its way through French to give us the word liaison which arrived in English in the 1640s.

When the prefix ad- (meaning to) attached itself to ligare, the Latin word was alligare, which in Old French became aloiier, which arrived in English about 1400 as the word alloy.

Rely also came through French, though from a form of ligare that included the prefix re-, not meaning to do again, as re- sometimes means, but meaning very or a lot. The Latin word religare meant to bind fast. In time Old French adopted a form which became the word relier, meaning to assemble, fasten, or attach. When rely made its way to English in the 1300s, its original meaning was to gather or assemble. It wasn’t until the 1570s that rely picked up the additional meaning depend or trust.

All these from the Latin word meaning to bind. If any of them surprised you, please leave a note in the comments section.

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


  1. First word I thought of as a derivative of ligare was ligature. To bind or sew together, right? I've watched MASH way too many times. Great post as usual, Charlie.

  2. Sorry, Charlie, you missed alligator, which if he attach himself to you, you be lunch.

  3. Hi Paul & Steve - thanks for coming by. Steve, you are a sick man, though I doubt if you ever showed up at Pau'ls hospital in MASH.

  4. SK missed the fact you did mention alligare. Them's what lives in the swamp and is gonna et you like you's a bacon. lettis and to-mare samwich.

  5. Anne, you appear to be channeling for SK -- those sound like words straight out of the mouth of one of his characters.