According to the
OED, Samuel Johnson mistranslated its Latin
ancestor to mean "mutually destructive" when in fact it means "very deadly or
destructive" - but Johnson's version has become the current meaning; what word
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The word internecine (1663) derives from the Latin
internecinus, very deadly or destructive, which
in turn derives from internecare, kill or
I'm confused. Isn't the original Latin
meaning the same as the English current usage - killing within a given group?
With "inter-" meaning between as in intercom, interdict, interface, etc. and
the meaning of "-necine" being to kill or destroy. How was the original Latin
meaning "very deadly or destructive"? Am I assigning the wrong meaning to
"inter"? In-fighting would appear to suggest the use of "intra," but isn't
there a better word for "very"? The Latin meaning seems like it should have
been ultranecinus, summanecinus, extranecinus...
[Mootguy: You are making the same
mistake as Johnson. He believed that the inter meant "mutual," when, according
to the OED, it is actually being used as an intensive meaning "very." ]
ebmty at & yahoo.com
MootGuy ...I won't give up..i won't give up!!
DTessaro at & aol.com
Boy, I guess I'm not your intended
audience ... but I do forward these to my more literary relatives and friends
.... apparently, I'm the puppy that tags along ... however... I do like knowing
more at the end of your questions than I knew before!
dtessaro at & #aol.com
Another common (mis)usage of
internecine is to describe conflict within an organisation, in-fighting, a kind
of organisational civil war. I think the word is perceived as containing echoes
of "internal"; in fact I would say the internecine is nowadys almost
exclusively applied to members of the same group attacking each other
patrickcarey at & %bitcat.net
learning the word internecine when studying Latin in my freshman year of high
school (circa 1955) . It meant deadly conflict within a group of persons
related by blood, conflict between members of a tribe.
phsheets at &#E comcast.net
Thanks for setting me
straight -- I always thought the derivation was from the Latin inter plus nex,
necis = family, tribe. On reading your question I assumed that had been
Johnson's assumption, but the OED only goes so far as to state that he read
"inter" in the sense of "internal." I can't imagine, however, that I could have
posited the derivation from "nex" independently and wonder whether any more
qualified authority has made the same mistake.
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