My son had an interesting question the other day. He was talking with his mom and somehow came up with the question, “What is the word sum for <condiment>?”

Hmm, I thought. As soon as we sat down to try a word sum, I could tell something interesting was going to happen. “Do you see any possible prefixes?” I asked Skyler.

“<con->” he replied.

“How about any suffixes?”


OK, so let’s write that out as a word sum…

con + di + ment condiment

What the heck is <di> we wondered?

On with the structure and meaning test. This time I wanted to start with the meaning test (etymology). If we looked up <di> on the Word Searcher, I knew we’d hit way to many unrelated words.

So Let’s look up the etymology of condiment. Here is what we found Etymonline:

condiment (n.) 

early 15c., from Old French condiment (13c.), from Latin condimentum "spice, seasoning, sauce," from condire "to preserve, pickle, season," variant of condere "to put away, store," from com- "together" (see com-) + -dere comb. form meaning "to put, place," from dare "to give" (see date (n.1)).

We read through the entry together, and I was shocked to see something that I recognized from other investigations but had not expected to see here.

It made sense to see the connection to “spice, seasoning, sauce” of course. But when I saw the Latin root ‘condere’ with a prefix telling us that the ultimate root was from ‘dare’ for “to give” I was pretty sure I knew what was going on, and how to explain the confusing <di> in our word sum.

I happen to recognize a final <are> in a Latin root is commonly a Latin suffix. That means that what is left is <d>!

I was lucky enough to have heard a story of a student working with the Old Grouch on the words <addition> and <add>. If I am remembering the story correctly, the Old Grouch announced the spelling of <add> as “a-double d” and the student asked, how do we know that this was a “double <d>”. Couldn’t that be an <ad-> prefix?

And to work that out they went etymonline to look at the root of <add>:

add (v.) 

late 14c., "to join or unite (something to something else)," from Latin addere "add to, join, attach, place upon," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + -dere comb. form meaning "to put, place," from dare "to give" (see date (n.1)). Meaning "to do sums, do addition" also is from late 14c. Related: Added; adding. To add up "make sense" is from 1942.

And just like Skyler and I when we were looking up <condiment> we found this same information:

“...from dare ‘to give’”

So Skyler and I had good reason to believe that we had just encountered another example of single consonant letter base <d> for ‘to give’.

But what to do with the <i> of the <di> in our hypothesized word sum?

Skyler and now Jessie who has joined us, shout out “connecting vowel letter!”

Indeed, <-i-> is a common connecting vowel letter in words of Latin origin. So we provide a deeper analysis of <condiment> like this:

con + d + i + ment condiment

And Jess shared that this makes sense because you “add condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish (yuck, she says about relish) to burgers.”


So Skyler and I decided to go over to the Mini-Matrix Maker to build a little matrix with the <d> base that linked <addition> and <condiment>. Here it is!

Screen Shot 2020 01 25 at 10.06.40 PM


There are certainly many more words that can be added to this matrix. Perhaps our community can take a cue from Emily Mitchel’s Grade 1 class and their “Homophone Project”. Anyone interested in sharing words from the Latin root ‘dare’ for “to give” that can be analyzed with a <d> base, please add them in the contents. Skyler, Jessie and I will be happy to create a large word matrix to share!

In the meantime, Skyler and I had already taken a cue from Dan Allen’s Grade 5 investigation of the word <antidisestablishmentarianism> with its diminutive <st> vowelless two-letter base from the Latin ‘stare’ "to stand". Skyler has begun constructing a matrix on the Word Microscope with this base. Here are some images of his work so far.

 matrix building

The above image is from the part of the WM where we build the matrix.

Below are images from the "Log view" in WM from the work Skyler has done so far:



st matrix log

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 3.41.54 PM


We'll upload a fuller investigation some day!


Pete, Skyler and Jess