Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Dan from Traverse City asked about the origin of a couple of election words. Specifically, he asked about ballot and precinct, but I’ll expand the question a bit.
Ballot came from French and Italian words that meant a small ball. The election sense of the word owes its origin to the Venetian Republic. There, it was the custom to place a palmed colored ball into a container in order to register a secret vote.
Precinct came from a Latin word that meant to encircle or surround. Particularly, it referred to the act of girding one’s loins—using a belt, sash, or cincture to gather in a flowing garment at the waist. In a political sense, it designates an administrative district—a division of a county, city, town, parish, etc. for election purposes.
Campaign came from a French word that meant open countryside. When the word entered English, it referred to an army in the field. By analogy, its meaning spread to any organized attempt, including an organized course of action designed to influence the outcome of an election.
Election came from a Latin word that meant selection or choice. Specific reference to appointment to an office appeared in English in the early 16th century.
Politics came from a Greek word that meant public matters or civic affairs. Aristotle wrote a treatise with that title.
Polling owes its existence to a German word that meant a head. Basically, a polling place conducts a head count, though it is no longer literal.
Ticket tracks back to French and German words that meant a tag, label, or notice attached to an object during legal proceedings. The political use of the word designates the list of candidates put forward by a particular party.
Vote came from a Latin word that meant a vow or an ardent desire. In the political sense, it is a decisive choice that designates approval or acceptance springing from one’s desire and inclination.
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