In our ongoing educational etymology work on English word origins, this past week we learned that the prefix “con-” can mean “with” or act as the intensive “thoroughly.” A couple of weeks ago we also learned that the English root word “tract” means “drag” or “pull.” An attractive way to remember and learn English roots is to reconnect them in your brain by concise review, thereby making their meaning intractable. Some of the words I’ll reinforce in this English vocabulary root words blog are convince, conclusion, context, conjugal, conglomeration, tractor, traction, distraction, and contract.
Con- → ‘With’ or ‘Thoroughly’
sample words: convince, conclusion, connect, context, conjugal, conglomeration
We learned last week that the English prefix con- can mean ‘with’ or ‘thoroughly.’ To begin with, the prefix “con-” frequently means “with” or “together.” For instance, when you connect two things, you bring them “together” or link them “with” each other. The context of a particular word in a given sentence is those words “with” which it is woven, or “with” which it occurs. A conjugal relationship pertains to two spouses “with” whom each are joined. And a conglomeration is a large mass of objects which are brought “together.”
The prefix “con-” can also act as an intensive, giving emphasis to the root or stem to which it is attached. For instance, when you convince someone of something, you just don’t “win” her over (the Latin root vinc means “conquer” or “win”), you “thoroughly win” her over to your way of thinking. A conclusion is not just a “closing” of an argument or book (the Latin root clus means “shut” or “close”), but it’s a “thorough” closing of it.
Tract → ‘Drag’ or ‘Pull’
sample words: tractor, traction, distraction, contract
A couple of weeks ago we learned about the English root tract: ‘drag’ or ‘pull.’ Apparently I was distracted, or “dragged” apart from writing about it before now! Ever slip around on a basketball court? Then maybe you needed new shoes or at least new soles, for the traction on them might have been poor, making you unable to “drag” your feet as you tried to stop or maneuver. Ever seen a tractor hard at work? More than likely it was “dragging” or “pulling” something along, like a combine or bush hogger. Everyone likes to receive a contract, but does anyone really ever read the fine print beyond the monetary figure involved? A contract is etymologically a bunch of legal agreements “pulled” together, most of which are probably indecipherable legalese to the uninitiated.
Questions of the week (to be answered next week):
- What does a convention have to do with the meaning of the prefix con-?
- What does the mathematical operation of subtraction have to do with the English root tract?
Questions from last week:
- Q: What would the corresponding spelling variants of “perception” be, using “ceiv” and “cip”?
A: Perceive and percipient.
- Q: Can you name another eponym, or two, that come from names of characters in Homer’s Iliad?
A: To “hector” and “Achilles’ heel.” Hector was the great Trojan hero who was able to “hector” or “bully” others because of his great strength. Achilles was the greatest of the Greek heroes who died by a poison arrow shot in his heel by Paris (afterwards known as the Achilles’ tendon, yet another eponym). Someone’s “Achilles’ heel” is his only weakness, just as the only weakness that Achilles had was in his heel, for his mother Thetis had dipped him into the river Styx which made the rest of his body invulnerable to normal weapons.