Saturday, September 12, 2009

Getting a -LEG- Up


Sometimes identical letter combinations in different English words are sheer accidents of history. Sometimes they come from earlier sources in other languages that also shared letter combinations, but not meaning. A good example is the sequence -leg-.


The Latin verb legare meant to commission or send on a public mission, to appoint as a deputy, or to bequeath as a legacy. Common words based on this root include delegate, legate, legation, and relegate.


The Latin verb legere meant to collect, gather, choose, traverse, or read. Common words based on that root include colleague, legend, legible and illegible, legion, and sacrilege.


The Latin legis (the singular genitive form of lex) meant “of the law.” Common words based on this root include legal and illegal, legislation, legislator, legitimate, and privilege.


The Latin noun collegium meant a partnership or fraternity. From it sprang words such as college, collegial, collegiality, and collegiate.


The Latin verb ligare meant to bind, to tie together, but it sometimes shows up in English as -leg- or a close variation. Instances include allegiance, league, and legato.



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