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Latin caput head

In Latin caput means head.


Eight-year-old Rajan came running into his father’s study to tell him about the strange sparrow that he had just seen in the garden. Mr Gyaninder Chopra showed appropriate interest. But that encouraged the young raconteur  and, instead of leaving after finishing his tale, he rambled on about his school and his friends and his enemies and his coming birthday and the gifts he wanted from everyone. When even after 10 minutes the boy showed no signs of stopping his ramble and letting his father go back to his file, the harried Chopra ji cried out. “Achha mere baap ab tu ja! Meri khopdi mat khaa!”


Khopdi is the common man’s version (that is, vulgar  version) of the Sanskrit word kapaal, and kapaal in turn is a cousin of the caput in the heading and kephale in Greek.


The English words built on this root have it in three forms: cap-, cip- or cep-.

Cap put on the head-1: Decapitatecapitulaterecapitulate

Cap put on the head-2: Capitationcapsizecapillary

Cap put on the head-3: Precipiceprecipitateprecipitous

Cap put on the head-4: tricepschattelcephalic


IE men-  to think

The English 'to think' has its arisen from Indo-European root, men-.


Bawra man dekhne chala ik sapna…

The Hindi word man is a cousin of the English word ‘mind’. Manan means meditation, deep thought; manas is the psyche, the mind.

The Latin word for mind is even closer to man. It is mens. From it, we get:

Mental, mention, comment, amentiadementia


A ‘mental’ calculation is the one done in mind. When you ‘mention’ somebody, you bring him into your mind. A ‘comment’ is something you devise with your mind.’


The other words from the men-root are:

Men-1: Mementoreminiscencementor

Men-2: manticmandarinmuse

Men-3: bemusedamnesia, amnestymnemonic


The Greek goddess of memory was called Mnemosyne. The Latin root monere, discussed independently, is also a part of the men-family.


Latin monere to remind


A ‘monument’ reminds us of the person or the event in whose memory it was built. Anything that is as huge and impressive as a monument is monumental.

Rajan was the ‘monitor’ of his class. It was his duty to maintain the decorum in the class when the teacher was not there. One day, he was doing that when his two best friends broke into a guffaw, disrupting the pin-drop silence in the class. When he went to their desk, they showed him a cartoon they had drawn of one of their teachers. Rajan admonished them. “You are my friends,” he said. “If you will not stay quiet when I mind the class, why will anyone else? I am sorry but I will have to write your names on the blackboard.”


Raconteur: (n) A person who tells ‘what happened’ in a very interesting style.

Origin: L re-, back+ acont, to tell, account + -eur, doer => ‘one who tells back what happened’

Ramble: (v) to wander without a definite route or goal; (n) an aimless walk taken for pleasure.

  • The film should have been edited better. It rambled in the middle.
  • The jobless, frustrated young man did nothing but ramble the streets of his village all day.
  • The novelist’s mind had become tired after the day’s work. A ramble through the forest refreshed him.

Vulgar: (adj) related with common people, unrefined, indecent.

Origin: L vulgus, the masses => ‘related with the masses’ => ‘not related with the refined and educated upper classes’ => ‘not refined, crude’

=> ‘in bad taste, indecent’

  • The language spoken by the common people of an area is called its vulgar language or its vernacular.
  • “Oh, speak like an educated man, will you?” The girl snapped at her boyfriend who had just used seven swear words in three sentences.

“These vulgar manners make you no different from a roadside mechanic.”

The other word from the root vulgus is divulge.

Decapitate: (v) to cut off the head.

Origin: L de-, off + caput, head

  • The head of the decapitated policeman was found by a bush, 25 metres away from his body.

Capitulate: (v) to surrender with conditions.

Origin: L capitulum, small head => ‘to write a document with several sub-headings’ => ‘to prepare an agreement with several conditions’

  • The terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight and took it out of the country. They threatened to kill the 160 passengers on board unless their leaders who were under arrest in India were released. The government tried to negotiate with them, but ultimately, after talks of seven days failed and the hijackers became impatient, capitulated to their demands.
  • In the song sar kataa sakte hain lekin, sar jhukaa sakte nahin, the patriots say that they will not capitulate, even if the enemy threatens to decapitate them.

Recapitulate: (v) to summarize the main points.

Origin: L re-, again + capitulum heading => ‘to talk about the headings again’ => ‘to talk about the main points again’

  • At the end of the class, the teacher recapitulated what he had taught in the past two hours.

Capitation: (n) to count the heads; a fees charged per head.

Origin: L caput, head => ‘counting of heads’

  • Schools and proffesional colleges collect capitation fees—sometimes calling it ‘donation’—from the students, over and above the tuition fees. The Supreme Court has banned the practice.

Capsize: (v) to overturn.

Origin: Sp. cabo, head => capuzar, to sink headfirst. This etymology however is debatable.

  • Our boat capsized and we all fell into the water.

Capillary: (n) a tube as fine as a strand of hair.

Origin: L caput, head => capillus, hair => capillaris, related with hair

  • The thermometer that we use in our homes and clinics is a capillary thermometer. It has a bulb at one end and a capillary tube rises from it. The bulb contains mercury. Since the volume of a cylindrical capillary is V= pi*r^2*L, it pays to minimize the radius r, so that a given temperature change results in a large change in the length of liquid in the capillary, L. This makes it very easy to notice any change in temperature.

Precipice: (n) the steep, vertical edge of a hill or a huge rock. Also called a cliff.

Origin: L pre-, before + cip-, head => ‘a place from where you can fall, and if you fall, your head will be before the rest of your body.’ => ‘there

is nothing below to stop the headfirst fall’

  • Pakde rehnaa, chhodna mat!” The hero’s father called out to the hero and the heroine who were dangling from the edge of the precipice, barely holding onto a rock, and frantically looked about for a rope or some cloth with which he could pull them up. 400 Precipitate: (v) to throw down headfirst, to cause something to happen suddenly or prematurely; (adj) moving with great speed, occurring suddenly.

Origin: L pre-, before + cip-, head => ‘to throw down headfirst.’

  • The village girl was happily bathing under the waterfall, humming a tune to herself. When she saw a man looking at her from behind a rock, she fled precipitately into the bushes.
  • On Friday noon, the bridge broke and precipitated two buses into the gushing river below.

Precipitous: (adj) very steep

Origin: See precipice

  • The road to the hill top was narrow and precipitous.
  • Only expert rock climbers could climb that precipitous hill.
  • The Lok Sewa Party’s tally of 23 marked a precipitous fall from its 124 seats in the previous Lok Sabha.

Triceps: (n) a muscle having three points of origin, especially the muscle in the upper arm which helps straighten the elbow.

Origin: L tri-, three + cep-, head => ‘three-headed’

: (n) a movable article of personal property; a slave.

Origin: cousin of cattle. And how is ‘cattle’ related to the root caput? Here’s how:

L caput, head -> capitalis, of the head -> capitale, the heads (of animals) that one owns => catel

This etymology will also help explain the various uses of the word ‘capital.’ A capital city is the head city of a country. Capital punishment is the punishment of the head, that is, which cuts off the head. Capital also means ‘wealth and property’ as an extension of the meaning of the Latin word capitale.

Many men in India still treat women as chattel. If you tell them that their wives and daughters are individuals too and have rights of

their own, they will raise their eyebrows and order you to get lost if you don’t want to get beaten into pulp. Then they will go back to

acting like the masters of the women in their home, ordering them to do this or that, and slapping them or kicking them if they make

the slightest mistake or even if they don’t.

Cephalic: (adj) related to the head.

Origin: Gk kephale, head

  • EEG is the abbreviation for Electroencephalogram. It is a technique for studying the electrical current within the brain. Different patterns of electrical impulses can denote various problems in the brain

Psyche: (n) the mind.

Origin: Gk psyche. This is the other root related with mind. It is found in psychology, psychiatry, psychosis and psychic.

Psychology: (n) the study of mental states and behaviour of humans and animals. Origin: Gk psyche + -ology, study.

Psychiatry: (n) the branch of medicine that deals with mental disorders. Origin: Gk psyche + -iatry, healing.

Psychosis: (n) a mental disorder, with or without any disease, in which a person lives in his own imaginary universe, totally cut off from and unable to understand reality.

Psychic: (adj) related with mind (just like ‘physical’ means ‘related with body’), non-physical

Amentia: (n) mental retardation because of a defective brain.

Origin: L a-, not + ment-, mind => ‘having no mind’

: (n) loss of mental abilities resulting from a disease, sometimes accompanied by personality changes too; madness.

Origin: L de-, without + ment-, mind => ‘without mind’ => ‘mad’

  • Usually, as one grows old, one’s memory and mental faculties naturally decline. However, sometimes, these happen due to a disease – dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia.
  • In common usage, the adjective ‘demented’ means ‘mad.’

Devise: (v) to create something clever in the mind.

  • The two friends devised a plan to make an April Fool of all their teachers.

Memento: (n) something that reminds one of a person or an event.

Origin: L meminisse, to remember

  • The organizers of the function gave a memento to the chief guest.

Reminiscence: (n) a remembering of the past.

Origin: L re-, again + mens, mind => ‘bring to mind again.’ ‘Remind’ is built similarly.

  • Almost every talk of old people is full of reminiscences. If you tell an old man that you will listen to him but on the condition that he will not reminisce, the poor man will effectively have little to say! He will also probably grow sad, because your condition will make him feel that you have no interest in his life.
  • Mentor: (n) a person who is a friend, philosopher and guide.

Origin: Gk men-, to think => ‘to advice.’ The Sanskrit word mantra too is from the IE root man-. Mantra means ‘a thought, an advice.’ A guy

who thinks and gives advice is, therefore, called a mantri.

: (adj) related with the ability to tell the future or undiscovered truths with the help of supernatural powers or omens.

Origin: Gk men-, to think => ‘to advice.’

  • Some types of mantic practices are: A) Bibliomancy: knowing the future by randomly selecting a passage from a book, frequently a

sacred book. B) Oomancy: drop egg whites into boiling water; the shape of the cooked egg tells the future. C) Necromancy: calling

the spirits of the dead and asking about the future from them . D) Ornithomancy: using birds to know the future. For example, a

fortune-teller using a parrot to pick out a card with someone’s fortune inscribed on it. E) Chiromancy: telling a person’s future from

his hand. Also called ‘palm reading.’

Mandarin: (n) a high ranking Chinese official in the times of the Chinese empire.

Orgin: Related with Hindi mantri.

Muse: (n) something that inspires new thoughts in an artist; state of thinking deeply.

Origin: IE men-, to think

  • The celebrated painter M.F. Hussain was so captivated by Madhuri Dixit’s performance in ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ that she became his muse. She inspired many of his paintings and even became his reason to make a movie, ‘Gajagamini’. He said the movie was an ode to womanhood in general, and Madhuri in particular.

Bemused: (adj) lost in thought; greatly confused.

Origin: be + muse => ‘in the state of deep thinking’ => ‘absent-minded to everything else’ => ‘confused about everything else.’

  • When Ravi got the question paper, there was a bemused look on his face. Wasn’t it the science paper today? Why had the invigilator

given the maths question paper?

  • The 13-year-old girl was bemused at everybody’s changed behaviour that day. Her mother did not beat her even once and even told her not to do any housework. Instead, she washed her hair (!), made her wear very nice, new clothes and then decorated her with her own lipstick and nailpolish which she otherwise never allowed her even to touch. Baba always came home very late. But that day, not only was he at home, he also picked up Chhotu and told her that she need not bother about the little boy and should only get ready herself. Then guests came and mother told her to go and greet them. They also smiled upon seeing her. What was happening? Why was everyone being so good to her?

Amnesia: (n) loss of memory; (adj): amnestic. A person who suffers from amnesia is called an amnesiac or an amnesic.

Origin: Gk a-, without + mneme, memory. The Greek root mneme is derived from the root men-, to think or remember.

  • The patient had a brief amnestic period after the brain surgery.

Amnesty: (n) pardon granted to a group of offenders by the government.

Origin: Gk a-, without + mneme, memory => ‘we choose to forget the wrongs you did’ => ‘we set you free’

  • The government declared an amnesty period of three months for all the illegal migrants working on its soil to either regularize their status or leave the country without penalty.
  • The British-ruled Government of India had filed serious charges of sedition and terrorism against many freedom fighters. After the Independence, the Government of India declared an amnesty for all of them.

Mnemonic: (n) a trick that helps one remember better.

Origin: Gk mneme, memory.

  • The child was often confused between the words ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical.’ Her teacher told her a mnemonic. H had a bar parallel to the ground in its middle. So ‘h for horizontal’ was parallel to the ground.
  • Here’s a mnemonic for the word ‘guffaw’- ‘guffaw’ rhymes with ‘haw’. So imagine a man laughing loudly saying ‘Haw haw haw’ (a slight variation of the usual ha ha ha)


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