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, August 10, 2017

A challenge

A challenge

Below is a list of words that all grew out of the same Proto-Indo-European root. Through considering the words, can you figure out the meaning of the root?


A little more information:

perish — 1200s — from a word meaning to be lost 
issue — 1300s — originally meant to flow out 
obituary 1706 from a word meaning pertaining to death
itinerant — 1560s — from a legal term meaning a journey
circuit — 1300s — from a word meaning a going around
transit — 1400s — from a word meaning a going over
trance — 1300s — from a word meaning coma; passing from life to death
itinerary — 1400s — from a word meaning description of a route of travel
initiation — 1580s — from a word meaning a beginning
ambition — 1300s — from a word meaning a going around (for favor)
exit  — 1530s — go out — originally a stage direction

The common root for all these modern words is the Proto-Indo-European word *ei-, which meant to go. Hmmm. Puts a new spin on ordering food to go, eh?

In the comments section I hope you’ll mention whichever word or words seems the biggest stretch for you from a root meaning to go.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.


  1. Perish led me astray, but for most of these I suspected a relationship to exeo, exire, the Latin word for "to go." I like it that stage directions still use the Latin "exit" and "exeunt." Which always reminds me of Shakespeare's most memorable stage direction. "Exit, followed by a bear." :-)

  2. Brava! May neither your exits nor your entrances be followed by bears.

  3. Ambition seemed the biggest stretch for me. I think of ambition as a stagnant state of being. You either are ambitious or you are not. I am afraid I am not terribly ambitious. Maybe if I were my writing career would not be so stagnant. Um...I think I might have it backwards.

    1. Hey Christine -- Ambition is an intriguing thing. It makes sense to me that an ambitious person is doing his/her best "to go" & like you, I don't perceive myself as having much ambition (largely because life is so darned great as it is).