Thursday, 27 December 2012

impregnable and impregnate

Are wholly unrelated!

The first is borrowed from French imprenable, with the negative prefix in- plus prenable "able to be taken".

The second is borrowed from Latin impraegnāre "to make pregnant", with a different prefix in- meaning "into" plus praegnāre "to be pregnant".

Additional: Grammar Girl has twitted this post, and Anna Key has expressed skepticism that these words could be wholly unrelated. They are. prenable is from Latin prehendere "to grasp" from Proto-Indo-European *ghend- "seize, take" and praegnāre is probably from prae "before" plus gnāscī "to be born" (OED) from *ǵenh₁- "to give birth, beget".

8 comments :

vp said...

So what is that G doing in "impregnable"?

goofy said...

apparently it was added in imitation of words like reign and deign.

Will said...

And 'inpregnable' would mean not able to be impregnated?

Glen Gordon said...
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Glen Gordon said...

Perhaps this is a good example of how a word can in many cases have multiple word origins at once simply because a word doesn't evolve in isolation but rather can be so easily affected analogically by the rest of the vocabulary of a language. Numbers and pronouns seem particularly prone to mutual alterations. Eggcorns come to mind here.

Neogrammarians may pull their hair out because of this but I prefer to embrace un-clockwork irregularity as a natural component in the evolution of real-world human language. Analogies, backformations and cultural puns are lurking everywhere to reshape a word and to enrich its etymology. In other words, neverending word fun!

Barbara Jasińska said...

You mentioned prefix -in, but actually used is -im. Decide on one version.

goofy said...

Barbara, they are the same. "im-" is just an assimilated form of "in-".

Montag said...

If they were unrelated before now, they are so no longer.