Intercine (internecine?)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Pedro y La Torre, Jun 6, 2009.

  1. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)

    Apologies if the question seems ridiculous however up until today I had always written (and said) the word as intercine, "intercine warfare" for example. I am 100 per cent sure I have seen it written like this in a number of places, including prominent newspapers, otherwise I would have surely realized that it was a mistake before now.

    Upon searching for a definition of the word however, it seems that it acutally doesn't exist.

    Has anyone else made this "mistake"? Or can it be that "intercine" is also an accepted form of internecine?

  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's an interesting word.
    At some point in my past I wondered what the word "internicene", apparently about internal squabbles or bloody battles, had to do with the Nicene Council or Creed.
    It turned out not to be a reference to some kind of religious crusade, but to be a panj misspelling.
    Since then, I have been careful, and with all the fervour of the converted I have been correcting others who spelt the word as I had once done.

    I don't believe I have ever seen intercine, but then just as PyLT reading quickly would see internecine as intercine, so I would see intercine as internecine.

    The OED has an interesting tale to tell about this word.

    Originally, internecine meant deadly, destructive, characterized by great slaughter.
    It derived from the Latin internecium meaning slaughter, destruction.
    Its first recorded use is:
    1663 BUTLER Hud. I. i. 774 Th' Ægyptians worshipp'd Dogs, and for Their Faith made internecine [ed. 1674 fierce and zealous] war.

    The OED adds:
    On this authority entered by Johnson in his Dictionary, with an incorrect explanation, due to association with words like interchange, intercommunion, etc. in which inter- has the force of ‘mutual’, ‘each other’. From Johnson the word has come into later dictionaries and 19th c. use, generally in the Johnsonian sense.

    The Johnsonian sense, which is the current sense:
    Mutually destructive, aiming at the slaughter or destruction of each other.
  3. Oeco

    Oeco Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    English - US
    Internecine is the only way I've seen and heard this word. It means "death" (nec) between (inter) usually between two closely related groups.

    edit after reading Panj: I also thought it would have been spelled internicene in as much as I have always heard it pronounce with a long I as in Nicene Creed. Evidently it shouldn't be pronounced that way! hmmm learned something new.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2009
  4. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    That clears it up then. Thanks to all.
  5. photojim New Member

    I am convinced that I have encountered the word in use by unassailable sources. I have understood it to be a term derived from the Latin "sanguis" meaning "blood." Thus an internecine battle is a battle within one's own family or tribe -- blood relatives. However I had supposed that it was spelled more like "intercine." The extra syllable (that I had undoubtedly overlooked) actually seems to confirm and add emphasis to my definition: It would refer to a battle that is "internal to a family or tribe."
    In any event we English speakers have the right to create new words that become official when their usage spreads. Edgar Allen Poe is renowned for the invention of words that are now established in dictionaries.
  6. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Greetings all

    May I, as a classicist, set a couple of things right here?

    internecine has nothing to do with the Nicene Creed, nor with Latin sanguis, blood. It is simply "mutual [the Latin inter bit] slaughter(ing) [nec-, modified regularly with the Latin adjectival suffix -inus]".

    So it means the kind of tit-for-tat killing characteristic of a vendetta, and well known to students of the Roman civil wars, or readers of Mario Puzo's The Godfather.

    I hope this helps.

  7. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    I beg to differ from my classical confrère Scholiast. Dr. Johnson, who apparently originated the sense of 'mutually destructive', was also an excellent classicist but seems to have been mistaken in this. Chambers English Dictionary (1990) gives the following meanings for 'internecine':
    That is, the first two meanings are given as strictly correct and the latter two as loose meanings. The etymology is explained as follows:
    That agrees with the OED, quoted by Panjandrum. The OED also points out that 'internecine' is related to the rare noun 'internecion', for which it gives two meanings:
    Thus it tells us roundly that the meaning 'mutually deadly conflict' is improper. It gives the following etymology:
    In Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary, the sense of 'mutual conflict' does not appear for any of the relevant words. The verb interneco means 'kill' or 'put to death' and the noun internecio, from the examples given, clearly means 'total destruction', 'slaughter to the last man'.

    L&S explain interire as meaning 'go among other things' ('to merge with the world', as it were) and hence 'to die'. Thus we can I think conclude that interficere means 'put among other things' and hence 'to kill', and that the inter in internecare has a similar sense, acting, as Chambers says, as an intensifier.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015

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