tax, levy

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Aug 28, 2010.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    While reading I bumped into levies, heffingen in Dutch, levéé in French, meaning some kind of tax as well, imposed on someone.

    What struck me is that the belastingen/ taxes/ impôt words seem based on some kind of load, on imposing, on burden/ bearing, so on a downward movement (the effect of burdens, imposing), but a levy can be a tax too, but suggests something like raising. In German one 'lifts' (erhebt) taxes. So there is some kind of ambiguity there in my view, or even a contradiction.

    Do you have this (apparent) ambiguity in your language as well? And can you explain it?
  2. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:
    Levy is «τέλος» ('telos, neuter noun), from the ancient «τέλος» ('tĕlŏs, neuter noun), lit. fulfilment, conclusion. PIE base *telā-, to weigh, lift, probably due to the weighing of the correct amount of gold/goods one had to pay as a financial charge or other levy in order to meet the requirements or expectations of the State (from «τέλος», the ancient Greek unit of value and mass «τάλαντον», talent derives).
  3. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Tax on income: Impôts (French), Impuestos (Spanish)
    Tax on services, goods, luxury, property: Taxes (Fr), Impuestos, Aranceles (Sp)
    Sales tax: Taxes (Fr), Impuestos (Sp)
    Value added tax: TVA taxes sur la valeur ajoutée (FR), IVA impuestos sobre el valor añadido
    to tax, raise taxes: imposer (Fr), imponer, gravar (Sp)

    I don't have a definite idea in my mind what a levy is, it sounds like a formal word for taxes, taxation. I believe to levy = to raise taxes, so it's like imposer/imponer. It would make total sense if it comes from Fr. levée (raising funds) lever (to raise up). Some more explanation about this term would be appreciated.
    The above is an attempt to simplify what would be extremely complicated if we go into detail.

    I'm not sure what is the origin of the words taxes, tasas (perhaps an idea of measurement, measuring judging by other words in the same family), but imposer/imponer etc. is clearly negative since there is an idea of imposing, imposition. Come to think of it sometimes we use duty in English (taxes, aranceles) which gives an idea of imposition by an authority.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  4. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    So in Greek there is at least no ambiguity as for taxes... ,--)

    I quite agree with the imposing, M, but the funny thing is that levying seems like the opposite. There is also exempting, which can happen by lifting, but that is indeed the opposite of imposing, whereas 'levying' means the same as imposing, and raising comes close to it, I think, but the root is/seems originally the same.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I just got some interesting answer from DearPrudence via private message:
    So there seems to be this logic involved: first one imposes [from above] and then collects [picks up] the "fruits". However, the funny thing is that the picking up word is the basis of a new word for taxes.

    However, more contributions welcome ! (I do not know why these fonts now appear, sorry !)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2010
  6. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Tagalog: tax= Buwis, Levy= pataw
  7. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But do they refer to either imposing (top-down) or to levying, literally lifting (down-up)? Do you see links with other words?
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I bumped into this question again, as I wondered whether my conclusion in #5 can be correct: first you impose/ lay down and then you pick up/ levy/ raise. The metaphor then seemed fairly logical, but 7 years later...

    Please tell me whether you use those concepts in your language too of laying down/ imposing rules [taxes] and then picking up the fruits [money]...
  9. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    In Finnish, the verbs that refer to creating a new tax don't seem to have an obvious top-down element.


    taxable (adjective): veronalainen (literally: undertax [top-down]) (cf. underground: maanalainen)

    to levy a tax (verb): kantaa vero (literally: to carry a tax [down-up]) (used mainly in formal language)
  10. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That is interesting: then you translate 'able' as 'under' (I might be mistaken) or do you mean by 'taxable' someone subjected to tax?

    kantaa vero: do you then mean that the person 'carrying the tax' is the one claiming the money (as I think 'levy' means)? Then that seems surprising.

    Just checking, maybe there is some misunderstanding somewhere!
  11. igusarov

    igusarov Senior Member

    Moscow, Russia
    Russian: quite similar concept and similar ambiguity.

    "Налог" = literally "onlay" or "onput" depending on how you translate its parts (but then, some dictionaries claim that "налог" is a root in itself). The meaning is "a tax".

    "Облагать налогом" = literally "round-lay [with] onlay", "to surround with tax". Preposition "with" is implied by the instrumental case of "налог". Prefix "об-" in this case can be explained as "from all sides, involving the entire object". The meaning is "to make something liable to tax".

    "Собирать налоги" = literally "to together-take the onlays", the meaning is "to collect taxes". Exactly same verb "собирать" is used for picking up berries, grapes, apples, etc. However, this verb doesn't imply any "up from below" movement. Instead, "со-" in this context means "from many places into one place" as in "put things together", while "-бир-" is a variation of the root "to take". So it's more like taking scattered things together than picking things up.

    "Сбор" = an ambiguous noun, literally "together-taking". This is both the process of collecting something, and a tax:
    "Сбор средств" = "collection of funds" = "fundraising".
    "Дорожный сбор" = "road tax" (for extra heavy semis).
  12. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    By veronalainen, I mean a taxable transaction, such as taxable income and taxable sales. We also have adjectives such as kyseenalainen (questionable, literally "under-question") and kiistanalainen (disputed, literally "under-dispute").

    However, a taxable person is verovelvollinen (literally: tax-obligated).
    Yes. In formal language, there seems to be a distinction between kantaa (to collect taxes from good taxpayers) and periä (to collect taxes aggressively when bad taxpayers have failed to pay). In everyday language, we use periä in both cases. (Periä has even a third meaning, "to inherit".)
  13. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Extremely interesting in-depth information. Your Налог reminds me of our [belasting]aanslag, aan(towards)-slam, something like what you grab towards (yourself, I.c. the state)

    @Määränpää: very interesting to notice that
    - 'able' is viewed as 'under' (although I suppose there is no 1-1-relation)
    - is there anything to say about the root of periä?
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
  14. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    "-n-alainen" is only used in a small number of words. There are other more common equivalents of "-able" such as "-kelpoinen" (~competent) or the passive present participle form of the verb.

    "Perä" means "back end", so words derived from it are used when someone goes after someone in some sense: the heir follows the deceased person, the creditor pursues the debtor.
  15. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Again very interesting: the debtor/creditor relation as high/low (superior/ subordinate) or leader/ follower... Those might be universal...
  16. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    I may not have been entirely precise. The person who does the "carrying" is actually the tax authority, not the government or the parliament. Think of a medieval taxman carrying money bags from citizens up to the king's castle. By the way, the version of the law in Swedish (Swedish has a longer history as an official language in Finland than Finnish, so Finnish terms are often translations) uses "bära upp", which should be recognizable to speakers of other Germanic languages. It means literally "to bear up".
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    OK, I am over a year older, and came to think of this again. So we noticed that one imposes taxes (downwards =valid)
    but one lifts sanctions (upwards = not valid, no longer valid). Yet, one can also raise or [French]
    lever taxes (upwards =valid), So the down/up contrast works for impose and lift, but then, as for making valid, one can impose or raise… Both verbs seem to be contradictory: expressing the same thing by means of an opposite movement, except if one explains it the way --- except if one adopts DearPrudence's hypothesis: first you impose (strip down???) and then you gather, pick up (levy)...

    @apmoy70: what verbs do you use with /telos/? Can you tell us? Up and down, or up or down?
    @igusarov: you seem to have down (imposing) and up (picking) - and gathering (around)
    @Määränpää: Finnish might have this contrast too, but not the ambiguity imposing/ raising, I think;
  18. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    From «τέλος» derive:

    (1) The ancient verb «τελέω/τελῶ» tĕléō (uncontracted)/tĕlô (contracted) --> to finish, complete, initiate, discharge, pay, spend which with a prefix becomes:
    -«Ἀπο-τελῶ» ăpŏ-tĕlô («ἀπό» ăpó + «τελῶ») --> to bring to an end, complete a work, produce, pay what is due, accomplish, perform, fill up, satiate.

    -«Δια-τελῶ» dĭă-tĕlô («διά» dĭắ + «τελῶ») --> to bring to an end, accomplish, continue, persevere.

    -«Ἐπι-τελῶ» ĕpĭ-tĕlô («ἐπί» ĕpí + «τελῶ») --> to complete, finish, accomplish, bring to perfection.

    -«Συν-τελῶ» sŭn-tĕlô («σύν» sún + «τελῶ») --> to bring to an end, complete, finish off, perpetrate.

    (2) The ancient verb «τέλλω» téllō --> (trans.) to make rise, spring, produce, (intr.) to rise, spring, originate (of constellations, plants, waters) which with a prefix becomes:
    -«Ἀνα-τέλλω ănă-téllō («ἀνά» ănắ + «τέλλω») --> to rise up.

    -«Ἐπι-τέλλω ĕpĭ-téllō («ἐπί» ĕpí + «τέλλω») --> to speak a speech, command, prescribe, give orders.

    -«Συν-τέλλω sŭn-téllō («σύν» sún + «τέλλω») = «συντελῶ».

    All the aforementioned verbs -with the exception of «ἐπιτέλλω»- have survived in MoGr (with slightly different meanings): «αποτελώ» [a.pɔ.teˈlɔ] --> to form, be, comprise, make up, constitute, compose, «διατελώ» [ði.a.teˈlɔ] --> tο remain, be, «επιτελώ» [e.pi.teˈlɔ] --> to achieve, put through, «συντελώ» [sin.deˈlɔ] --> to contribute, carry through, be instrumental, «ανατέλλω» [ˈte.lɔ] --> to rise up.

    «Τέλος» is from PIE *telh₂- to lift, carry, bear, endure.
    According to Beekes:
  19. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    In Finnish, when sanctions (pakotteet) are lifted, they are just "removed" (poistaa).
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But then, when you collect taxes, you don't pick them up or something of the kind, do you?

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