Latin Root: CONVERSATION
Dear Latin Teacher,
I have been told that the term conversation
comes from the Latin "to change together". Did I misunderstand? I have not been able to find this root and I would like to know.
The verb verto, vertere, verti, versum
has many meanings, taking up three columns in the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary. The most basic meaning is to turn
In Latin just as in English the verb to turn
is often used to describe change, and so we have derivatives in English such as verse
, and conversion
A simpler way to think about the root of conversation
, however, is to keep the meaning to turn
, i.e. to turn together, to turn to one another, to face one another. That's what people do when they converse.
The person who told you that conversation
meant "to change together" wasn't wrong, but he or she was stretching the Latin a bit to make a point. And we do influence and change one another in conversation, don't we?
Now, if you are still reading this, you must be interested in the nitty gritty of Latin roots and English derivatives, because it's about to get techinical.
The prefix con-
means together. The root noun versatio, versationis
or a changing
. But the word conversation
is really derived from a Latin verb, and that verb is complicated.
The compound verb converto, convertere, converti, conversum
ranges in meaning from to turn about, to whirl around, to change direction, to alter. In Ecclesiastical Latin it meant to convert to Christianity.
does not come directly from convertere
For most verbs you can take the fourth principal part, in this case conversum
, and turn it into a first-conjugation infinitive, i.e. conversare
. This is called the frequentative form, meaning that it indicates that the action of the verb is frequent, continual, or repeated. So conversare
means something like to turn around and around
does not come directly from conversare
has it's deponent equivalent. A deponent is a verb that looks passive but has an active meaning. The Latin verb conversor, conversari, conversatus sum
means to dwell in a place, to live with, to keep company with, or to pass one's life.
So the word conversation
is the noun derived from the deponent word conversari
. The Latin noun conversatio, conversationis
means: 1. frequent use. 2. Frequent abode in a place. 3. Intercourse or conversation.
Hey, if that's too much, you should have stopped reading!
Thanks for asking a Latin teacher!
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