Latin: etymology of the verb "heredito".

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Michael Zwingli

Senior Member
English - American (U.S. - New England)
Hi, all.
I want to have some opinions on the etymology of the Latin verb heredito, "to inherit". In the course of performing some translational exercises in Latin, I recently looked up that verb in Wiktionary. The etymology that I found there seemed faulty even to such a relative novice as is represented by myself, namely: hereditas + -ito. Since I do not believe that -ito was suffixed to nouns (and especially to abstract nouns) to form frequentative verbs, but rather was suffixed only to existing verbs and (very occasionally) to adjectives to form frequentative, I believe the extant etymology to be incorrect. Rather, I would hypothesize a lost Latin verb heredo (compare the Latin verb exheredo), as the base of the frequentative heredito. What do you all think?
 
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  • Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I want to have some opinions on the etymology of the Latin verb heredito, "to inherit". In the course of performing some translational exercises in Latin, I recently looked up that verb in Wiktionary. The etymology that I found there seemed faulty even to such a relative novice as is represented by myself, namely: habilitas + -ito.
    Did you see it in Wiktionary? I'm reading there it comes from hereditas, from heres/heridis 'heir' + -tas, which seems perfectly fine.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Did you see it in Wiktionary? I'm reading there it comes from hereditas, from heres/heridis 'heir' + -tas, which seems perfectly fine.
    Haha, I wrote habilitas instead of hereditas. Sorry, I have fixed that super mind-fart!

    The problem that I see in the etymology, is that the frequentative forming suffix -ito was not usually suffixed to nouns, and was apparently never suffixed to abstract nouns such as those in -itas. Rather, -ito was normally affixed only to existing verbs or perfect participles to form frequentative verbs, and very occasionally to a concrete noun such as would be represented by heres. Additionally, for hereditas + -ito to yield heredito, the frequentative suffix has to utterly replace the abstract nominalizing suffix -itas, which in addition to appearing to violate the normal methods of Latin suffixation, makes the construction analogically identical to heres + -ito to my mind. For these reasons, heres + -ito = heredito (with the normal change to conform to Latin sound laws) seems a more probable etymology to hereditas + -ito = heredito, can you see what I mean? Indeed, an even more likely etymology might be a "lost" verb heredo ("I inherit", compare "lost" cello which formed the basis for excello) + -ito (rendering the verb frequentative). This last possibility is, to my mind, corroborated by the existence of the verb exheredo., for which ex- had to be prefixed to a verb heredo, no?
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Well, it must be formed from hērēs, hērēde if only because it would look like hērēditātitāre if formed from hērēditās, hērēditāte (or hērēditāssāre if formed with the i-less variant -tāre). The meaning of such a word would also have to be "to inheritance", albeit hērēditō itself looks like some sort of colloquial calque on Greek to me, because you'd expect a verb like hērēdāre to be a causative "to make heir".
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Well, it must be formed from hērēs, hērēde if only because it would look like hērēditātitāre if formed from hērēditās...
    That is precisely what I meant when I state above that for hereditas to be the base, -ito would have to fully displace -itas upon the stem, which for hereditas is heres, anyways. This is not how compound suffixation operated in Latin, in which each suffix leaves its own "stem" on the lemma (as is obvious in the Latin compound suffix -aticus composed of -atus and -icus).
    ...albeit hērēditō itself looks like some sort of colloquial calque on Greek to me, because you'd expect a verb like hērēdāre to be a causative "to make heir".
    Hmm, I don't think it is a calque. Especially from the Greek, which utilized semantically very different IE roots to form its word for "heir", and derivatives thereof. Rather, I think that there existed (as with the "lost" verb cello/"to rise"), probably in Proto-Italic or very early Latin (way before Plautus et.al.) a verb heredo/"I inherit", which formed the basis in Classical Latin for the verbs exheredo/"I disinherit" and heredito/"I inherit regularly, I inherit as a matter of course". If one thinks about it, these meanings are reflective of the aristocratic nature of Roman society, in which regular inheritance supported Patrician social status, and disinheritance would be seem as an extraordinary measure.
    Please, your thoughts...
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    If there had existed such a verb, and if the nature of the Roman society continued to place great importance on inheritance, there's no conceivable way that verb should have disappeared altogether. Have you checked hērēditāre in a dictionary? It first appears in Late Latin, so no pre-literary Latin word could have formed the basis for it. In fact, TLL nicely confirms my hunch by saying it occurs in translations of Greek Christian writings as the rendering of (κατα)κληρονομέω. I sure know Gratin translationese when I see it :)

    Come to think of it, the relation between hērēditāre and hērēditās seems suspiciously like that between κληρονομεῖν and κληρονομία - so I'd say the Latin verb was formed to the abstract noun after all. The form could be explained by the simple and expected haplology *-itātitāre- > -itāre. Oh, and "to make heir" is indeed one of its meanings.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Come to think of it, the relation between hērēditāre and hērēditās seems suspiciously like that between κληρονομεῖν and κληρονομία - so I'd say the Latin verb was formed to the abstract noun after all. The form could be explained by the simple and expected haplology *-itātitāre- > -itāre. Oh, and "to make heir" is indeed one of its meanings.
    Ah, I will admit that I didn't take the obvious haplology into account, which makes that etymology possible. Even so, it would represent a very rare usage of -ito.
     
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