Derived from Dico: Dictator, Dictum, Addicted(?)

Varro, De Lingua Latina 6.61-2

“The Latin verb dico has a Greek origin, the Greek verb deiknuô which means “to show”. From this meaning, as well, comes dicare “to show, dedicate” as when Ennus writes: “I say that this circus has six little turning posts.” From this word as well we get iudicare, “to judge” because the ius “right thing” is spoken. And from this we get iudex because the judge speaks the judgment (ius dicat) once he has the authority. From the same place, we have dedicate because the ending comes from speaking (Dicendo) certain words.  Thus when a temple is dedicated by a magistrate it is done by speaking after the pontiff. From dicere, from speaking, is indicium (“information”); from this he declares war (indicit); “has invited people” to a funeral (indixit), he has postponed a day (prodixit), he has submitted a judgment (addixit). From this root as well we have named a dictum (“saying”) from farce and also the adjective dictiosus  (“witty”). From this root we also have dicta, orders given by leaders in a military cample; and we also have dictata, dictation exercises in school. And we also have dictator as leader of the people because he must be called (dici) by the counsel. Some old phrase come from this too such as addici nummo (“to be betrayed for a penny”) or dicis causa “for the sake of judicial precedent” and addictus, to be bound to someone.”


Dico originem habet Graecam, quod Graeci deiknyo. Hinc etiam dicare, ut ait, Ennius:

Dico VI hunc dicare circum metulas.

Hinc iudicare, quod tunc ius dicatur; hinc iudex, quod ius dicat accepta potestate; hinc dedicat, id est quibusdam verbis dicendo finit: sic, enim aedis sacra a magistratu pontifice praeeunte, dicendo dedicatur. Hinc, ab dicendo, indicium; hinc illa: indicit bellum, indixit funus, prodixit diem, addixit iudicium; hinc appellatum dictum in mimo, ac dictiosus; hinc in manipulis castrensibus dicta ab ducibus; hinc dictata in ludo; hinc dictator magister populi, quod is a consule debet dici; hinc antiqua illa addici numo et dicis causa et addictus.

Semantic Change and the Challenges of Linguistics: Varro, On the Latin Language, V.2-3

Varro, On the Latin Language, V 2-3

“…The first part, where we consider why and from where words develop, The Greeks call etymology; the second part is semantics. I will speak of these two categories in the following books together but more sparingly of the second.

These things are often rather obscure because every word that has been used does not still exist; the charge of time has made some forgotten. Moreover, every word that still exists, since it may be subject to misuse (applied incorrectly, for example) may not be wholly the same (since many words are altered by changes in spelling). And not every word has its origin from roots based in our own language. Many words indicate a different thing now from what they used to mean: for example, hostis (“enemy”). For, people who used this word in the past meant a foreigner who followed his own native laws; now when they use it they mean what used to be called perduellem(“enemy”).”

priorem illam partem, ubi cur et unde sint verba scrutantur, Graeci vocant etymologian, illam alteram peri semainomenon. De quibus duabus rebus in his libris promiscue dicam, sed exilius de posteriore.

Quae ideo sunt obscuriora, quod neque omnis impositio verborum exstat, quod vetustas quasdam delevit, nec quae exstat sine mendo omnis imposita, nec quae recte est imposita, cuncta manet (multa enim verba litteris commutatis sunt interpolata), neque omnis origo est nostrae linguae e vernaculis verbis, et multa verba aliud nunc ostendunt, aliud ante significabant, ut hostis: nam tum eo verbo dicebant peregrinum qui suis legibus uteretur, nunc dicunt eum quem tum dicebant perduellem.

Arranged Marriages, Solemn Promises: Etymologies of Spondere

From De Lingua Latina, 6. 69-70

Spondere is to say spondeo,”I promise”, related to sponte, something done willingly—this has the same force as a voluntate, “with personal inclination”. This is why Lucilius writes about the woman from Crete that she came to his bedroom willingly, that she tossed off her clothes of her own desire. Terence intends the same willingness when he says that it is better: “to do something right because of your own correct desire rather than fear of another.”

From the same sponte on which spondere is based, are derived the words despondet  (“he pledges”) and respondet  (“he promises in return, answers”), desponsor  (“promiser”), and sponsa (“promised bride”), and many others that are similar. For one spondet (“solemnly swears”) when he says sponte (“willingly”) spondeo (“I pledge”).  He who has promised (spondidit) is thus a sponsor. He who is by “formal promise” (sponsus) bound to keep a pledge to another person is called a cosponsus.

This is what Naevius is thinking when he says consponsi. If money or a daughter “were promised” (spondebatur) as part of a marriage arrangement, both the money and the girl who was promised (desponsa) would be called sponsa (“pledged”). The money which had been agreed upon under the engagement agreement (sponsu) was called a sponsio (“guarantee”); the man to whom the things were promised would be called a sponsus (“betrothed”) and the day of the agreement would be called “betrothal day” (sponsalis).


Spondere est dicere spondeo, a sponte: nam id idem valet et a voluntate. Itaque Lucilius scribit de Cretaea, cum ad se cubitum venerit sua voluntate, sponte ipsam suapte adductam, ut tunicam et cetera reiceret. Eandem uoluntatem Terentius significat, cum ait satius esse

Sua sponte recte facere quam alieno metu.

Ab eadem sponte, a qua dictum spondere, declinatum despondet et respondet et desponsor et sponsa, item sic alia. Spondet enim qui dicit a sua sponte “spondeo”; qui spopondit, est sponsor; qui idem ut faciat obligatur sponsu, consponsus.

Hoc Naevius significat cum ait “consponsi.” Si spondebatur pecunia aut filia nuptiarum causa, appellabatur et pecunia et quae desponsa erat sponsa; quae pecunia inter se contra sponsu rogata erat, dicta sponsio; cui desponsa quae erat, sponsus; quo die sponsum erat, sponsalis.



Werewolf Week, Augustine Edition, nos quid dicamus?

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…

The Connection between Humility and Exhumation: Varro on Earth (Terra) and Soil (Humus)

From Varro’s De Lingua Latina 5.23

Terra (earth) is, the same as humus (soil). Thus, they say that Ennius meant “to the earth” when he said: “they were striking the soil with their elbows”. Because the earth is soil, the man who is dead and covered with earth (terra) is said to be inhumed (humatus).

Based on this correlation, if some Roman is cremated and if his burial place is not covered with clods of earth or if a bone has been excluded for the purification of the family of the dead, the family remains in mourning until the bone or body is covered by soil (humus) for the purpose of purification—the period of time during which, as the priests say, the body is uncovered [or exhumed? Inhumatus]. Also, a man who inclines toward the soil (humus) is called “more humble”; the lowest character is called most humble (humillimus) because the humus (soil) is the lowest thing in the world.”

Terra, ut putant, eadem et humus; ideo Ennium in terram cadentis dicere:
Cubitis pinsibant humum;
et quod terra sit humus, ideo is humatus mortuus, qui terra obrutus; ab eo qui Romanus combustus est, si in sepulcrum, eius abiecta gleba non est aut si os exceptum est mortui ad familiam purgandam, donec in purgando humo est opertum (ut pontifices dicunt, quod inhumatus sit), familia funesta manet. Et dicitur humilior, qui ad humum, demissior, infimus humillimus, quod in mundo infima humus.

Mercenaries and Latency: False Etymologies by the Road-Side with Varro

Varro is a veritable cornucopia of knowledge about Latin linguistics. But, sometimes, he is clearly just making stuff up. Can you spot any nonsense below?

“In the Helmet-Horn Tale* we find “A man who fought for wages [latrocinatus] for Ten years under King Demetrius”

Such men were called mercenaries [latrones] who were at the side [latus] of the king and who were in the custom of carrying a sword at their side [ad latera]. Later they were called ‘bodyguards’ from stipatio [“close-attendance”] and they were contracted for a wage.

For this wage [merces] in Greek is called latron [λάτρον]. But from this use, many of the old poets call soldiers latrones. But today we use the word latrones for highwaymen because they have swords like soldiers or because they are latent [“they lie in hiding”] for the purpose of laying traps.”

In Cornicularia:

Qui regi latrocinatus decem annos Demetrio.

Latrones dicti ab latere, qui circum latera erant regi atque ad latera habebant ferrum, quos postea a stipatione stipatores appellarunt, et qui conducebantur: ea enim merces Graece dicitur latron. Ab eo veteres poetae nonnunquam milites appellant latrones. At nunc viarum obsessores dicuntur latrones, quod item ut milites sunt cum ferro, aut quod latent ad insidias faciendas.

Do YOU Know Your Great-Grandfather’s Grandfather? Varro on Ancient Words

Varro, on the Latin Language (VII. 3)

“It is not surprising [that ancient words have unclear meanings] since not only was Epimenides not recognized by many when he got up from sleep after 50 years, but Teucer as well was unknown by his family after only 15 years, according to Livius Andronicus. But what is this to the age of poetic words? If the source of the words in the Carmen Saliorum is the reign of Numa Pompilius and those words were not taken up from previous composers, they are still 700 years old. Why, then, would you criticize the labor of an author who has not successfully found the name of a hero’s great-grandfather or that man’s grandfather, when you cannot name the mother of your own great-grandfather’s grandfather? This distance is so much closer to us than the period from now to the beginning of the Salians when people say the Roman’s poetic words were first in Latin.”

Nec mirum, cum non modo Epimenides sopore post annos L experrectus a multis non cognoscatur, sed etiam Teucer Livii post XV annos ab suis qui sit ignoretur. At hoc quid ad verborum poeticorum aetatem? Quorum si Pompili regnum fons in Carminibus Saliorum neque ea ab superioribus accepta, tamen habent DCC annos. Quare cur scriptoris industriam reprehendas qui herois tritavum, atavum non potuerit reperire, cum ipse tui tritavi matrem dicere non possis? Quod intervallum multo tanto propius nos, quam hinc ad initium Saliorum, quo Romanorum prima verba poetica dicunt Latina.

Teucer was a king of Salamis who was absent during the Trojan War.
Epimenides was a poet from Crete who wrote a Theogony. He allegedly went to sleep as a boy and awoke 57 years later. Here’s his strange entry from the Suda.

“Epimenides, son of Phaistos or Dosiados or Agiasarkhos and his mother was Blastos. A Cretan from Knossos and epic poet. As the story goes, his soul could leave his body for however long the time was right and then return again. When he died, after some time his skin was found to be tattooed with words. He lived near the 30th olympiad and he was among the first of the seven sages and those after them. For he cleansed Athens of the plague of Kylôneios at the time of the 44th Olympiad when he was an old man. He wrote many epic poems, including in catalogue form about mysteries, purifications, and other riddling matters. Solon wrote to him asking for the cleansing of the city. He lived 150 years but he slept for 50 of them. “The Epimenidean skin” is a proverb for mysterious writings.”

᾿Επιμενίδης, Φαίστου ἢ Δοσιάδου ἢ ᾿Αγιασάρχου υἱός, καὶ μητρὸς Βλάστας, Κρὴς ἀπὸ Κνωσσοῦ, ἐποποιός· οὗ λόγος, ὡς ἐξίοι ἡ ψυχὴ ὁπόσον ἤθελε καιρόν, καὶ πάλιν εἰσῄει ἐν τῷ σώματι· τελευτήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ, πόρρω χρόνων τὸ δέρμα εὑρῆσθαι γράμμασι κατάστικτον. γέγονε δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς λ′ ὀλυμπιάδος, ὡς προτερεύειν καὶ τῶνζ′ κληθέντων σοφῶν ἢ καὶ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς γενέσθαι. ἐκάθηρε γοῦν τὰς ᾿Αθήνας τοῦ Κυλωνείου ἄγους κατὰ τὴν μδ′ ὀλυμπιάδα, γηραιὸς ὤν. ἔγραψε δὲ πολλὰ ἐπικῶς· καὶ καταλογάδην μυστήριά τινα καὶ καθαρμοὺς καὶ ἄλλα αἰνιγματώδη. πρὸς τοῦτον γράφει Σόλων ὁ νομοθέτης μεμφόμενος τῆς πόλεως κάθαρσιν. οὗτος ἔζησεν ρν′ ἔτη, τὰ δὲ Ϛ′ ἐκαθεύδησεν. καὶ παροιμία τὸ ᾿Επιμενίδειον δέρμα, ἐπὶ τῶνἀποθέτων.

Trollope vs. Varro: Who Has the Biggest Pile?

“And so I end the record of my literary performances,—which I think are more in amount than the works of any other living English author. If any English authors not living have written more—as may probably have been the case—I do not know who they are. I find that, taking the books which have appeared under our names, I have published much more than twice as much as Carlyle. I have also published considerably more than Voltaire, even including his letters. We are told that Varro, at the age of eighty, had written 480 volumes, and that he went on writing for eight years longer. I wish I knew what was the length of Varro’s volumes; I comfort myself by reflecting that the amount of manuscript described as a book in Varro’s time was not much. Varro, too, is dead, and Voltaire; whereas I am still living, and may add to the pile.”

-Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, Chapter XX

The Connection(s) Between Speaking and Fate: Varro, On the Latin Language VI.52

“A man speaks [fatur] who first releases from his mouth a sound that has a meaning. From this, children are called infants [lit. the ‘unspeaking’] before they can do this; when they can do this, they are said “to speak”. Then, the words ‘soothsayer’ [fariolus] and ‘prophet’ [fatuus] are made based on similarity to a child’s speech. Because of the fact that the fates set the lifetime for a child by “speaking” [fando], the words ‘fate’ [fatum] and ‘fateful’ [fatales res] have developed. From the very same word, those who speak easily are called “eloquent” [facundi dicti] and those who are in the habit of uttering the future by sensing it beforehand are called “speakers of fate” [fatidici] and are also described as “speaking prophecy” [vaticinari] because they do this when their mind is in a frenzy: but this will be addressed later when we talk about poets.”

Fatur is qui primum homo significabilem ore mittit vocem. Ab eo, ante quam ita faciant, pueri dicuntur infantes; cum id faciunt, iam fari; cum hoc vocabulum, tum a similitudine vocis pueri fariolus ac fatuus dictum. Ab hoc tempora quod tum pueris constituant Parcae fando, dictum fatum et res fatales. Ab hac eadem voce qui facile fantur facundi dicti, et qui futura praedivinando soleant fari fatidici; dicti idem vaticinari, quod vesana mente faciunt: sed de hoc post erit usurpandum, cum de poetis dicemus.

The Secrets Hidden In Poetry: Varro, On the Latin Language VII 1.2

“Even though one adds these devices for the sake of divining the intent of the author, many other things still remain secret. But if poetic form, which has preserved in song many ancient words which still survive, had also preserved why they are, poems would be able to bear more fertile fruit. As in prose so too in poetry not all words can be said to possess their most ancient forms, and there are not many which one can read unless he spends his nights in deep study.”

Cum haec amminicula addas ad eruendum voluntatem impositoris, tamen latent multa. Quod si poetice quae in carminibus servavit multa prisca quae essent, sic etiam cur essent posuisset, fecundius poemata ferrent fructum; sed ut in soluta oratione sic in poematis verba non omnia quae habent etuma possunt dici, neque multa ab eo, quem non erunt in lucubratione litterae prosecutae, multum licet legeret.