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This week I was wondering whether the words < meditation > , < medical >, and < remedy > would have the same base and belong in the same matrix.

Meaning: Considering these words for meaning, < meditate > seems like the odd man out. But when I look at Etymonline, I wasn’t so sure. Meditate to me seems like a mental process, considering something, somewhat a spiritual experience. My connotation seems backed up by the following. But the link to < medical > at the bottom makes me wonder if there is a connection as does the PIE root’s meaning.

meditation (n.)

c. 1200, "contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer," from Old French meditacion "thought, reflection, study," and directly from Latin meditationem (nominative meditatio) "a thinking over, meditation," noun of action from past participle stem of meditari "to meditate, think over, reflect, consider," frequentative form from PIE root *med- "to measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures" (cognates: Greek medesthai "think about," medon "ruler;" Latin modus "measure, manner," modestus "moderate," modernus "modern," mederi "to heal," medicus "physician;" Sanskrit midiur "I judge, estimate;" Welsh meddwl "mind, thinking;" Gothic miton, Old English metan "to measure;" also see medical).

< Medical > is related to <medicine> and pertains to healing, treating, or understanding the body and health. < Meditation > is also regarded with health benefits. The same PIE root is there.

medical (adj.)

1640s, from French médical, from Late Latin medicalis "of a physician," from Latin medicus "physician, surgeon, medical man" (n.); "healing, madicinal" (adj.), from mederi "to heal, give medical attention to, cure," originally "know the best course for," from an early specialization of the PIE root *med- "to measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures" (cognates: Greek medomai "be mindful of," medein "to rule;" Avestan vi-mad- "physician;" Latin meditari "think or reflect on, consider;" Irish miduir "judge;" Old English metan "to measure out"); also see meditation. The earlier adjective in English in this sense was medicinal. Related: Medically.

<Remedy> also has a connotation of healing the body, health-related so that one easily has a meaning connection to < medical >.

remedy (n.)

c. 1200, "cure for a disease or disorder; means of counteracting an evil," from Anglo-French remedie, Old French remede "remedy, cure" (12c., Modern French remède) and directly from Latin remedium "a cure, remedy, medicine, antidote, that which restores health," from re-, intensive prefix (or perhaps literally, "again;" see re-), + mederi "to heal" (see medical (adj.)). Figurative use from c. 1300.


I can propose the following word sums < re + med(e) + y > < med(e) + ic + al >

< med(e) + ite + ate + ion > or < medit(e) + ate + ion > .


Morphologically < meditation, medical, and remedy > could have the same English base element. < medic, medicine, medication > are other plausible relatives.

Etymologically, < remedy > and < medical > have a common Latin root of mederi. But < meditation >, derives from meditatio (nom.) and meditationis (gen.) and further back from meditari. The three have a common PIE root *med meaning, “measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures” that is marked with an asterisk to mean it is unattested. I can “hear” the echoes of this PIE root’s meaning in the three words. < Meditation > can be seen as “considering” and < medical > and < remedy > have connections with “measuring, taking appropriate measures.”

Deponent Verb with Frequentative Suffix? After consulting with a fellow tutor who has a firmer grasp on Latin than I do and having just reviewed notes from Latin 1, I recognized the < -ari > deponent verb infinitive suffix on meditari from the < meditation > entry and was wondering about the “frequentative form,” as described in the entry, having a deponent suffix added to it. It makes sense that you could be continually thinking about something. I haven’t noticed the combination before. Hopefully I’m seeing what I think in that < -it> and not falling for WYSIYGery (what you see is what you get).


Does an unattested common root (PIE root *med) allow them to be in the same matrix? Does a root being unattested cancel it from consideration as the etymon?

In the < meditation > entry, with the genitive form, meditationis, removing the genitive < -is > suffix, would leave meditation. Is that considered a loan word (or a “taken” word) since it’s taken directly?

Is the < -it > in meditari a frequentative suffix or part of the stem? Are frequentative deponent verbs common?

Thanks in advance for corrections and suggestions.

Comments (3)

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Thanks Pete & Lisa,

Pete, Going through the questions (mean? built? relatives? pronunciation? I didn't get to pronunciation because it wasn't part of my question.) really clarified what I knew and what I was trying to figure out. Writing it out to explain to someone else has great benefits too.

I agree that an unattested PIE root is not dependable enough for use as the common root and that < meditation > is likely a relative but does not belong in a matrix with < medical > and < remedy >. I see your point about being clear if I were using the PIE *med as the connecting root for those three English words in a < med(e) > base matrix.

Lisa, What you described is what I found too. "A frequentative possibility" is a great way to say it.


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Wow! Great questions and research Laure!

I don't have much to add other than "thinking outloud" --- when I went back over my notes from Latin I, the part that strikes me is that <-it> indicates a frequentitive stem (repeated or intense action). It is removable. But, I don't have anything in my notes on the Deponent Verbs that indicates any information on frequentitive suffixes (or stems?) occuring within those types -- but I don't see why any verb wouldn't have a frequentitive possibility.


Lisa Barnett
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What an amazingly well researched and posed question Laure! I love how you have laid out your morphological evidence with word sums and your etymological evidence so clearly.

My response here is only addressing your first question which is a topic I've been working to get my head around more clearly recently. Perhaps others can address your other questions, and/or provide greater clarity than I on your first question!

When I first saw your question, my initial hypothesis was that <remedy> and <medical> would be both etymologically and morphologically related, but that <meditation> was less likely to be in the same family.

Like you I traced <medical> and <remedy> back to the Latin root mid(eri) for "to heal, give medical attention to, cure". I then typed <mederi> into the search engine of Etymonline and in addition to those first two words, the word <meditation> surfaced!

Like you I see that this root is mentioned after the reconstructed PIE root *med-. At that point we need to come to our own principled decisions about whether we accept evidence from PIE roots as sufficient to conclude that words are etymologically related. Personally, I do not yet feel confident enough about drawing conclusions about how to treat evidence from these reconstructed roots. With Latin or Greek roots, we have written evidence to rely on -- so, given the common Latin root for <medical> and <remedy> and your word sums, I am very confident that those words could be represented by the same matrix. For the word <meditation> I am more confident of a historical connection, but I do not feel I am yet able to critically analyze the PIE roots, so I am happy to propose that <meditation> is very likely related, but that they are not linked by the same written evidence of the Latin root.

I also note that the actually reference to med(eri) is in a parenthetical statement and listed as one of the “cognates”. I know that “cognate” <co + gn + ate> is built from the <gn> base for “born” so “cognates” are words deemed to have been “born together”.

Here is that section from Etymonline:

(cognates: Greek medesthai "think about," medon "ruler;" Latin modus "measure, manner," modestus "moderate," modernus "modern," mederi "to heal," medicus "physician;" Sanskrit midiur "I judge, estimate;" Welsh meddwl "mind, thinking;" Gothic miton, Old English metan "to measure;" also see medical).

Here we see multiple roots proposed as relatives, but if I hold on to my own principle of avoiding drawing conclusions deeper than I can understand, then for now, I personally would include <remedy> and <medical> in the same matrix, and let <meditate> be a word that I’m going to let sit for a while as a potential member of this family.

Someone with more knowledge of how to critically analyze etymological evidence that goes back to languages that were not written down might be very happy to include <meditate> in the matrix, but then. If I did that, would have to indicate that words in this matrix are those that share the morphological structure of the base element <med(e)> (note the “potential <e>”) and which share a PIE root. In such a matrix, I could not use the Latin med(eri) as the evidence of the etymological connection, however. If I include <meditate> in this matrix, I should acknowledge that I was using PIE root as evidence for the “meaning test”.

I’m quite happy with either analysis. I simply think it is important to make our own criteria clear to the reader so that they can make their own judgement.

Great stuff Laure!


Comment was last edited about 4 years ago by Peter Bowers Peter Bowers
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