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8.4: §60. Interesting Words

  • Page ID
    8377
  • Two Latin synonyms were norma (“pattern,” “rule”; > E norm) and regula (“wooden ruler,” “rule”; > E rule). “Departing from the rule” is abnormal (ab-norm-alis); “not according to rule” is irregular (ir-regul-aris). Both words are entirely regular Latin adjectives. Why is it quite normal for irregular to begin in ir- and end in -ar?

    If you stand “outside your rank,” you can be described as extraordinary (extra-ordin-arius). However, if you are merely “over the number,” then you are a supernumerary (super-numer-arius). Other derivatives of super- are superficial (superficialis) and supercilious (superciliosus). The first comes from the Latin noun superficies (super + facies, “over the face,” “surface”[1]); the second is from supercilium, “eyebrow” (super + cilium, “over the eyelid”). A supercilious sneer should be full of eyebrows!

    Remember that the Latin source for English pre– is always prae-. In §35, we met the word preliminary (prae-limin-aris, “before the threshold”), where prae– is joined to the noun limen. The prefix is combined with an adjective in premature (prae-maturus, “ripe ahead of time.”

    Since mundane (L mundanus) means “pertaining to the world” (L mundus), extramundane is an old English word meaning “outside the world,” “not of this world.” Today it has been displaced by extraterrestrial, a modern formation based upon the Latin adjective terrestris (“earthly”). Another space-age word of excellent Latinity is interstellar (L interstellaris), “between [among] the stars.” Don’t confuse inter- and intra-. Unlike intercollegiate sport, intramural athletics are kept “within the walls.” Can you analyse the English word intermediary?

    Do realize that there are other Latin prefixes not listed in §59. A synonym of sub- is infra- (“below,” “beneath”), occurring in the hybrid infrared and in the colloquial infra dig (L infra dignitatem, “beneath one’s dignity”). Partially synonymous with super- are ultra- and praeter-, both of which mean “beyond.” Ultraviolet rays are beyond violet in the spectrum; praeternatural events lie beyond the natural.


    1. The word superficies (pronounced “super-FISH-eez”) exists also in English; it is a doublet of surface. ↵
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