Monday, July 23, 2012

Word of the Week - Appropriate

Last week while in the car, we were trying to figure out why "appropriate" (adj) and "appropriate" (v) are spelled exactly the same, pronounced differently, with what we deemed very different meanings. (Yes, my whole family is apparently word-nerdish, LOL.)
A Favor by Edmond Blair

So I just looked it up and kinda scratched my head to see that, in fact, they both come from exactly the same Latin word and both appeared in English in the 15th century.

Both start with proprius, the Latin word from which we get "proper." It's the best place the start in this case. Proper means "adapted to some purpose, fit, apt." The Latin means "one's own, particular to oneself." Easy to say how those are related, right? If something is its own, it has a very particular purpose. But it also carries an idea of possession. (Interestingly, it didn't carry a connotation of social correctness until 1704! Who knew?)

The prefix is a variation of ad- which means "to." Pretty simple. "To make one's own" is a very literal definition of the Latin approprius, which is where appropriate comes from. So the verb is pretty easy to see. But it also still has that meaning of "one's own, particular to itself." In which case the adjective suddenly makes sense too, because if something is appropriate, it is proper, fit, apt to a purpose.

Yeah, I really never thought that appropriate as "proper" and appropriate as "take for yourself, by force if necessary" were in fact the same. But apparently they are. Pretty interesting, eh?


  1. DEFINITELY interesting! Love your info here, Roseanna.

  2. I use this word a lot with my kids. There are a lot of things that aren't bad, just inappropriate. Like wearing a bathing suit to the mall for example :)

  3. This is such a fascinating word. I am so glad you shared.

    It is funny to think that your family discusses these thing, especially since your childeren are so young. My family is totally uninterested in words and thier origin and meaning. They are bored by it. It sounds like our family is full of awesomeness!