Saturday, October 13, 2012

Inspired by a Spire

Another example of accidental spelling involves the word spire and the combining form –spire. Though it looks as if they have a common ancestor, they do not. The identical spelling was due to chance.

The word spire comes from a Scandinavian/Germanic form that meant a sprout or sprig. Its early meaning was a tall and slender plant stalk. It evolved through the top of a tree, a reed, a conical pointed body, the prong of a deer’s horn, a column, and the tapering portion of a steeple.

The combining form –spire came from the Latin adspirare, to breathe into or to breathe forth. So when prefixes are added to –spire, you can hear heavy breathing in the background. Examples include
  • aspire: to long and pant for something.
  • conspire: to breathe together as one.
  • inspire: to breathe into.
  • perspire: to breathe (pass) through.
  • respire: to breathe again.
  • suspire: occurring under the breath – a sigh.
  • transpire: to breathe across – to leak a secret.

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