Christine Lovatt

Our distant cousins don’t necessarily look like us so we shouldn’t be surprised that in the world of vocabulary, word families have relatives who share a common ancestor, but have distanced themselves from each other.

The Latin word sanguis meaning ‘blood’ gives us both sanguinary ‘bloodthirsty’ and sanguine ‘happy’. Perhaps this is a hint about the mood of ancient assailants? The word sang-froid is another cousin, from the French ‘blood cold’ meaning cold-bloodedness or a couldn’t-care-less attitude.

The Latin genus meaning ‘stock or kind’ is the origin of several columns of words in my dictionary and pertains to ‘origins’. Gene is a heredity unit, transferred from a parent to an offspring. Genesis, meaning ‘creation’ is also appropriately the name of the first book of the OT Bible. Generate ‘to beget (offspring)’, is in the same vein as the above, all about new birth, as is genealogy, the study of the family tree.

The Latin for ‘knee’ is genu. There was a Roman custom of a father acknowledging the paternity of a newborn child by placing it on his knee. From this we get genuflect ‘to bend the knee’ and genuine ‘authentic’. The word generous, until the 16thC, had the meaning of being of noble birth, eventually with the tacit implication of being unselfish and magnanimous – not always the case among the aristocracy, I believe. Also ingenuous and ingénue, genius, genteel and gentleman from the idea that the noble classes were of upright, honourable character.

coinsMoney might make the world go round but it was always considered to be a danger. It comes from the Latin monere ‘to advise, warn’ – perhaps those Romans were as foolish with their money as the rich still are nowadays. It has some unlikely kinfolk. Monere also generated admonish ‘to give warning’, monitor ‘one who warns, reminds or checks’, premonition ‘a forewarning’, monument ‘a structure that reminds’ and summon which used to mean ‘remind privately’. Even monster is a relative, not something a family would advertise. Abnormal or prodigious animals were regarded as signs or omens of impending evil.

That’s families for you!

Happy Puzzling!