Saturday, March 09, 2013

Fists First



In Latin, pugnare meant to fight—specifically, with the fists. It lead to a few words still in use today, and a handful of obsolete terms, such as appugn (to oppose), expugn (to capture by fighting), propugn (to fight for something), and repugn (to fight or object).

A cousin is impugn, to fight something by calling its validity into doubt. It may also involve assailing the actions of a person. Pugilist is a fancy name for a boxer, a man or woman who engages in amateur or professional fistfights. A pugnacious person is quick to quarrel or fight.

That leaves one more word related to a fist: pygmy. In ancient Greece, πυγμή (pygme) meant fist. It also was a unit of length—the measurement from the elbow to the knuckles, a relatively short distance.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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