Surprising Shared Word Origins

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2021

Using publicly available datasets of English words, their etymologies, and their semantic distances, software engineer Daniel de Haas generated pairs & triples of words that have a common origin but otherwise are unrelated to each other.

“actor” & “coagulate”
Both of these words derive ultimately from the Latin “ago”, meaning “act”, “do”, “make”, and a bunch of other things.

English “actor” is a short hop away from “ago”, but “coagulate” takes a longer path: “ago” ➔ “cogo” (“collect”) ➔ “coagulum” (“a clot”) ➔ “coagulo” (“to clot”).

“educate” & “subdue”
I never would have picked those two words out of a lineup as having a shared etymological root, but sure enough it sits right there — the “du” in the middle of each word, which ultimately derives from Latin “duco”, meaning “lead”.

“Educate” comes from the Latin “eductus”, meaning to “lead or bring out”, and then the Latin “educare” (“raise, train, mould”). I love the image of education as the process of extruding a refined person out of a base of unrefined material.

“Subdue” comes from the latin “subduco”, meaning “lead under”. Again, a very clear physical description of what the word means — to put beneath you, or bring under control.

Update: Oh here’s a good one: the words “fascism” and “fajita” are both derived from the same Latin root.