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IE gen-  to give birth

This IE root gave us the Sanskrit root jan, found in janam, janani, jaati and yoni.


Sparta was a military state in ancient Greece. The Spartans wanted that their military power should never degenerate. But how to ensure that? By seeing to it that every Spartan was healthy and strong. No weak babies were allowed to live in the state. The Spartans said that today’s babies were tomorrow’s soldiers and also, the progenitors of Sparta’s future soldiers. Weak, diseased or disabled infants would grow up to become weak, diseased or disabled adults. Such adults would be militarily useless themselves and the progeny they would engender was also likely to be weak and diseased. So, in order to make sure that Sparta was not encumbered with any such undesirable people, as soon as a baby was born, he was inspected for congenital disorders. Then, he was bathed in wine; only strong infants could survive that test. The children who fared less than admirably in these tests were simply thrown off a mountain.


In twentieth century, a fan of the Spartans rose to power. Adolf Hitler. He implemented a similar eugenics program in his country. In Hitler’s Germany, the people with severe disabilities or with incurable or hereditary diseases, as well as the mentally ill, homosexuals, idlers or invetrate alcoholics were officially declared as ‘life unworthy of life.’ More than four hundred thousand such people were forcibly sterilized and around sixty thousand were given euthanasia by their physicians, so that their ‘bad genes’ could not spread further.


Exalt: (v) to raise to a higher level either by much praise or by promotion.
Origin: L ex- altus, high
  • When the Indian cricket team won the Champions Trophy, the media exalted it to Himalayan heights. When it lost the next international series that it played, the same media yanked it down.
  • The Indians have exalted Mohandas Gandhi as “Mahatma”.
Haughty: (adj) proud, arrogant
Origin: L altus, high => Old Eng haute => ‘someone who thinks that he is high above everybody’
  • In the song gore rang pe naa itnaa gumaan kar, the hero tells the heroine to stop being so haughty about her fair skin because it will not stay forever. 
Hawser: (n) a thick rope used to tow a ship.
Degenerate: (v) to go from a higher or better to a lower or simpler condition.
Origin: L de-, down + genus, race
rogenitor: (n) an ancestor or a forefather.
Origin: L pro-, forth + gen-, to produce => ‘the one who produces forth’
Progeny: (n) the children, the future descendants
Origin: L pro-, forth + gen-, to produce => ‘that which is produced forth’
  • King Dashrath was extremely worried by his lack of progeny. He was getting old. Who would look after his kingdom after him? His ministers and priests advised him to perform a Putrakameshti yagna—a sacrifice for progeny—along with his three queens.
  • The progeny of film stars find it much easier to get a break in Bollywood than unknown youngsters.

Engender: (v) to give birth to.
Origin: L in- gen-, to generate => ‘to bring into existence’
Encumber: (v) burden
Origin: Fr. en- + combre, a dam, barrier => ‘to block up’ ⇒ ‘to put difficulties in the path’
  • The child was encumbered by a heavy school bag.
  • The young man was encumbered by the responsibility of looking after his old parents, his two unmarried sisters, his alcoholic brother, his sister-in-law and their two children. His meager salary was barely enough to make the two ends meet.
Something that is burdensome can also be called cumbersome or cumbrous.
Congenital: (adj) present at birth.
Origin: L com-, with + gen-, to give birth => ‘the condition one is born with’

Congenital diseases are those that are present right from birth. They need not be hereditary. For example, a disease acquired during the
pregnancy is congenital but not hereditary.

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