Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Latin root LAC-, part 2: Verbs derived from the root -laqu-/-lac- (i)

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 46, "Delicado and delgado: The Latin root -LAC-", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Verbs derived from the root -laqu-

Lat. lăquĕāre

Just like English developed a verb to lasso from the noun lasso and Spanish developed a verb lazar from the noun lazo, Latin too developed the verb lăquĕāre from the noun lăquĕus whose principal parts were lăquĕō, lăquĕāre, lăquĕāvī, lăquĕātum. Just like the English and Spanish verbs, this Latin verb meant ‘to noose, entangle, ensnare’ (Eng. ensnare means ‘catch in or as in a trap’, COED). The verb lăquĕāre was not very common in Latin and it has left us no descendants in either English or Spanish and thus we can safely say that the Spanish verbs lazar and lacear that we saw in the preceding section are independent developments in this language and not descendants of this Latin verb.

Interestingly, there was a Latin noun which was a homonym of the present infinitive wordform lăquĕāre of this verb. This noun is totally unrelated to the verb, however. Both its nominative and accusative singular wordforms were either lăquĕāre or lăquĕar (the genitive is lăquĕāris.) The meaning of this noun was ‘paneled or fretted ceiling’. A derived adjective was lăquĕātus ‘paneled’. The source of this noun is unknown. Curiously, the word was borrowed into English as a technical term.[1] Also, note that Spanish has a verb laquear that means ‘to lacquer, varnish’, which in some dialects is lacar. This verb is also not related to Lat. lăquĕāre.[2]

Although lăquĕāre was a little used verb in Latin, two other also rare verbs were derived from it by prefixation, namely ablăquĕāre and illăquĕāre. Lat. ablăquĕāre was formed with the prefix ab‑ ‘from, away from’ and it meant ‘to turn up the earth round a tree, in order to form a trench for water’ (L&S). Lat. illăquĕāre was formed with the prefix in‑ and it meant primarily ‘to ensnare, take in a snare’.

Lat. lăcĕre and its derivates

As we said, the Latin verb lăquĕāre seems to have been developed out of the noun lăquĕus, but there was an actual simpler verb with the same meaning in early Latin, namely the third conjugation ‑ variant verb lăcĕre. The ancient verb lăcĕre and the classical verb lăquĕāre presumably have the same root but the latter, which seems to have been derived from the noun, replaced the older one. The meaning of this verb lăcĕre was ‘to entice, allure’ (L&S), but also ‘to ensnare, catch with a noose, entrap’ (OED). The present active form of lăcĕre was lacĭō and its present infinitive form was lăcĕre, but it had no perfect or supine forms that we know of and thus no passive participle from which to derive nouns. Some sources, however, give lēxī as the 1st person perfect verb form, by analogy with the form the perfect of derived verbs have (see below).

The verb lăcĕre is not found in Classical Latin and the single reference we have to it is from a second century grammarian named Sextus Pompeius Festus—also popularly known as Festus Grammaticuswho claimed this ancient verb was the source of a number of derived (prefixed) verbs that did exist in Classical Latin, namely allĭcĕre, conlĭcĕre, dēlĭcĕre, ēlĭcĕre, illĭcĕre, pellĭcĕre, and prōlĭcĕre. Since some of these verbs have left descendants in English and Spanish, all of which have come through borrowing, we are going to take a look at them here.

As you can see, in all of these verbs, the addition of the prefix resulted in the changing of the root from ‑lac‑ to ‑lĭc‑, a common type of sound change found in verbal roots in early Latin upon the addition of a prefix to form a derived verb, since the addition of the prefix changed the stress pattern of the word, which at the time was word-initial (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, § The un-prefixed verb became obsolete by Classical Latin times, though the derived ones were quite common. The different derived verbs can be seen below with their basic meanings and the prefixes that were used for their derivation. Also listed are some of the words that are derived from these verbs in English and Spanish.

Base Verb
Lat. verb
+ lacĕre =
‘draw gently to’
‘mislead, beguile’
‘entice away’
‘entice, seduce’
‘entice, seduce’
‘attract; allure’
‘lead on’

Four of these derived verbs have left us no descendants in Spanish or English. Take the verb conlĭcĕre, which is formed with the preposition/prefix con‑ ‘with’ and meant ‘to mislead, beguile’. No form of this verb or any derivates of it have made it into English or Spanish. The verb pellĭcĕre also has left no descendants. It was formed with the preposition/prefix per‑ ‘through’ and it meant ‘to attract/draw away; to allure, seduce, induce, win over, etc.’. Also without English or Spanish descendants is the verb prōlĭcĕre, formed with the preposition/prefix pro‑ ‘on behalf of, in place of, in favor of, before, for, etc.’, and meaning ‘to lure forward, lead on’. Finally, also without descendants in our languages is Lat. illĭcĕre, formed with the prefix in‑ ‘not, opposite of’ and meaning ‘to entice, seduce’. Note that Lat. illĭcĕre is not related to the adjectives Eng. illicit and Sp. ilícito.[3]

There were two other verbs related to lăcĕre. One was the verb lăcessĕre, derived from this verb by means of the verbal suffix ‑ess‑ĕre which formed intensive Latin verbs out of a small number verbs such as petessĕre ‘to strive after, pursue’ from petĕre ‘to seek, etc.’ (source of Sp. pedir) and făcessĕre ‘to do eagerly or earnestly, etc.’ from făcĕre ‘to do, make’ (source of Sp. hacer). The principal parts of lăcessĕre were: lăcessō, lăcessĕre, lăcessīvī, lăcessītum and its main meaning was ‘to excite, provoke, challenge, exasperate, irritate’ and was thus synonymous with irritāre (cf. Eng. irritate ~ Sp. irritar) and provocāre (cf. Eng. provoke ~ Sp. provocar).

The final verb related to obsolete lăcĕre was lăctāre, which was its frequentative version, a first conjugation verb derived from the stem lact‑ of a putative passive participle lactus of the verb lăcĕre. (Principal parts: lactō, lactāre, lactāvī, lactātum.) Lat. lăctāre meant ‘to allure, wheedle, flatter, deceive with fair words, to dupe, cajole’ (L&S). This verb was homonymous with another unrelated verb that meant ‘to produce milk; to suck milk’, the source of the learned verbs Eng. lactate ~ Sp. lactar. This second, unrelated verb is derived from the noun lac lactis ‘milk’ (source of Sp. leche).

A number of verbs were derived from the first lăctāre by prefixation, which are mostly synonyms or very similar in meaning. They are the following: adlectāre or allectāre ‘to allure, to entice’; dēlectāre ‘delight, please, amuse, fascinate, etc.’, and derived from it, the first conjugation, deponent condēlectārī ‘to be delighted with something’; inlectāre or illectāre ‘entice, attract, allure’; oblectāre ‘delight, please, amuse’; prōlectāre ‘to entice, allure’; and sublectāre ‘to wheedle, cajole, coax’. Only one of these verbs has left a significant legacy in English and Spanish, namely dēlectāre, so we will discuss this verb below after we discuss the verb dēllicĕre, which has the same prefix. Lat. allectāre has given us Eng. allect, a very rare verb borrowed from Latin in the 15th century with the meaning ‘to entice, allure; to attract’ (OED).


[1] The OED tells us that laquear is an English word, borrowed at some point as a technical term, primarily in Architecture, with a meaning similar to the original word’s, namely ‘a ceiling consisting of paneled recessed compartments, with bands between the panels’ (SOED), though the word has also been use in Anatomy. The use of this term in English seems to have been minimal, however, and most dictionaries do not mention this word. The OED associates this term with the Latin noun lăquĕus, a rather controversial etymology.

[2] Sp. laquear developed in Spanish from the noun laca that refers to ‘a glossy resinous substance used on wood or metal for protection and to give it a shiny surface’. English has two versions of the equivalent word, lac and lacquer, the latter of which is more common and comes through a French/Portuguese variant of the word that had an r in it. These words are not related in any way to Lat. lăquĕus or lăquĕar(e), since its ultimate source is a word in an Indo-Iranian language (through Persian and Arabic sources) that referred to a type of red dye.

Eng. shellac is a combination of the words shell and lac and it refers to ‘lac resin melted into thin flakes, used for making varnish’. The word is a calque of the French phrase laque en écailles ‘lac in thin plates’. Spanish uses lac for lacquer, lac, and shellac.

[3] The adjectives Eng. illicit and Sp. ilícito are loanwords from Lat. illĭcĭtus ‘not allowed, forbidden’, formed from the negative prefix in‑ and the adjective licĭtus ‘lawful’, derived from the identical passive participle of the verb licēre ‘to be allowed, permitted’, a second conjugation impersonal verb whose principal parts were: licet, licēre, licuit, licitum.

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