It’s time to vote. Why not ponder some voting-related words?
The word election came to English in the late 1200s, from the French word elecion, meaning choice, election or selection. This term came from the Latin word electionem, which has its roots in the Latin word legere, which meant to choose, or read.
Vote entered English in the mid-1400s, & comes from the Latin word votum, a vow, wish, promise or dedication. This suggests a much more active role than most modern Americans appear to understand. Imagine the difference in mindset if we all envisioned each vote as a promise or vow. Imagine the difference in the outcome if we all actually turned out to vote (in 2016 only 55% of eligible Americans chose to vote).
The term suffrage which has always intrigued me. Suffrage came to English in the 1300s and meant prayers or pleas on behalf of another. It comes from the Latin word suffragium, which refers to the right to vote or to lend support. Again, prayers, pleas, & support seem to reflect a different understanding of voting, an understanding closer to the idea of a promise or vow. Interestingly, suffrage also suggests the elections of the past weren’t entirely sweet & light, as the word parts that add up to suffragium are sub- & -frangere, which respectively mean under & shouting.
The word ballot comes from Italian word pallotte, or small ball, due to the Venetian practice of voting by casting a particular colored ball into a bowl or basket. From this we have the term to blackball. I’m forced to wonder whether casting small balls into a basket might be less hackable than our present practices.
Dear followers, please have something to say this voting season. Here on Wordmonger, you can feel safe, free from shouting & blackballing.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymoniline, The OED , CNN, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & The Ottawa Citizen. This post is an updated version of a 2012 Wordmonger post.