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Latin clinare to slant

The words lean (as in ‘she leaned out of the window’, not ‘he was gaunt and lean’),incline, inclination, disinclination, decline and recline are from this root.


A related root is clivus meaning slope, and clambering up the slope we meet acclivitydeclivity and proclivity.


The Greek counterpart of clinare is klinein. The surface of the Earth slopes from the Equator to the poles. Therefore, the regions having different slopes were called different klima. This word became ‘climate’ in English. Slowly, the sense of the word shifted from ‘region’ to ‘the weather associated with that region.’ The more poetic word for climate is clime.


Another thing that slants is a ladder and that is what the Greek word klimax means. “Hey! That’s the source of climax,” are you exclaiming? Yes, my dear budding etymologist, climax, and also anticlimax, has the idea of reaching the top of a ladder.

Latin cubare to lie down

The ‘concubine’ of a man is a woman who lies down with him without marriage (L. com-, with, together). The Mughal emperors had harems full of concubines. The concubine of a modern day man is more often known as his mistress.


A small chamber where you can lie down and sleep is called a ‘cubicle’.


The young Mrs. Grace Carpenter woke up in the dead of the night. Panting hard, sweating all over, she groped for her husband. Yes, he was still there, by her side. It was just a nightmare. All was well. Calm down, she told herself. No one could have come here. It was just a dream. Oh, good lord! What a terrible dream! What a terrible, terrible dream! She stayed awake the whole night, fearing that the nightmare may return if she slept.


She never realized that it had not been a nightmare. A man had actually come and laid over her and raped her. As soon as she woke up, he had flitted from her room to the next, where Stella Carpenter, her nubile sister-in-law was sleeping. He was a dead man, a demon, called Incubus by all the spirits because of this habit of his.


The other words from this root are Quber ‘lay down’ on mounts of gold: incubateincumbent

He was rich but his soul was sold: recumbentsuccumb.


The ‘m’ in the last three words landed through the nose—cumbare is the nasalized version of cubare.

IE swep- to sleep

‘Mujhe neend na aaye’ is a major love-related problem, though not the only one. Many lovers need to hide their affair from their families, and each morning when they get up, they hope they have not blurted out their secret in their somniloquys. They, like almost everyone, go to their loved ones in their dreams but a few, the somnambulists, actually start walking to reach them!


If you too are suffering from sleeplessness, cannot find any romantic reasons for it, and even the most boring lecture cannot make you somnolent, you are probably suffering from insomnia.

Did you ever notice that the Hindi words for sleeping, sona, and dreams, sapna, swapna, sound quite similar? These words as well as the Latin somnus and sopor (found in soporific) have come fromswep-. The ‘s’ sound of the IE root often changes into ‘h’ in Greek, and so the word ‘hypnosis’ too has the same root.


Latin dormire to sleep

A room providing sleeping beds to a number of persons is called a ‘dormitory’. A dormant volcano has been sleeping for the past several decades.


Dormeor meant sleeping room in French. It became ‘dormer’ in English. The window of the dormer was called, obviously, ‘the dormer window.’ Now, a European house often had an attic—a room with sloped ceiling just under the roof. In order to provide it with air and light, so that it could be used as a sleeping room, a small window was projected from the sloping roof. It was called ‘the dormer window’, or simply ‘the dormer.’ Today, the word ‘dormer’ is used only in the latter sense, and not for a bedroom or its window.

Latin quietis rest, calm

In Latin 'rest,calm' meaning is 'quietis'.


Shh! Mute all sounds and look out for these words as they walk towards you ‘quietly’, on tiptoe,

Quiet-1: Quiescentrequiem

Quiet-2: acquiesceacquitquietude

Quiet-3: coydisquiet

IE sed- to sit

The English 'to sit' has its arisen from the Indo-European root sed-


A newsreader on Doordarshan informed: “Jab unke baar baar anurodh karne par bhi sadasyon ne naare lagaana band nahin kiya, toh Adhyaksh mahodya ne sadan ki baithak uttha di.”


A netaji of a political party promised: “Hum yeh mudda Sansad ke Monsoon satra mein zarur uthayeinge.”


Did you ever notice that a sadan always sits? ‘Sadan ki baithak’ is what a meeting of the sadan is called. The Sanskrit word sadan means a house or a chamber, places where people sit. A sadasya is a ‘sitting member’ of the sadan. The Indian Parliament is called Sansad because the representatives of people sit together there (Skt. san-, together). A session of Sansad is called its satra.

Sitting is also a metaphor for remaining at one place; the ‘settlers’ of a place are the people who have sat down there, forever. They are called the ‘residents’ of that area. The word ‘reside’ has come from L.re-, back + sidere, to sit and this is how its meaning developed:

‘To sit back’ -> ‘to not move from a place’ -> ‘to live in a place permanently or for a long time’.


The following sed- words were found to be sitting on some of the seats arranged for a game of musical chairs at a friend’s house:


Seat-1: seat, siegesaddle

Seat-2: sediment, sedatesedentary, obsessive

Seat-4: residuesupersedeprepossessing

Seat-6: besetersatzassiduous

Seat-7: subsidysubsidiary

Seat-9: insidiousdissidentséance


You will be surprised to know that the word ‘nest’ too has origins in this IE root. It is formed from ni-sd, meaning ‘sitting down’ and so, came to be used for the place where a bird sat down after the day’s flight (L ni- means ‘down’ just like our own neeche).


The Latin word for nest, nidus, too is a part of the family. It is found in niche.


Gaunt: (adj) extremely thin and bony.


Lean: (adj) thin; poor; lacking in richness or income.

  • Sheeta, the panther, was not a hunter of men. He was young and in his prime; but always before he had avoided this hated presence. Of late, he had become more accustomed to it with the passing of many soldiers through his ancient hunting ground, and as the soldiers had frightened away a great part of the game Sheeta had been wont to feed upon, the days had been lean, and Sheeta was hungry. So, he was ready to hunt man.

Wont: (adj) used to.


Disinclination: (n) having no tendency for a particular thing.

  • He was disinclined to go for dinner outside.

Recline: (v) to lean back.

Origin: L re-, back + clinare, to slant

  • She reclined on the easy chair and lost herself in the novel.
  • He reclined on the bolster as he watched the TV.

Clamber: (v) to climb using both hands and feet; to climb with difficulty.

Origin: related with ‘climb’

  • She had planned to slip out of her house through the pipe that ran by her bedroom window. But, as she tried to clamber down, she got scared.

Acclivity: (n) upward slope.

Origin: L ad-, to + clivus, slope

  • The castle sat on the top of a steep acclivity.

Declivity: (n) a downward slope.

Origin: L de-, down + clivus, slope

  • The boy ran down the steep declivity at break-neck speed.

Proclivity: (n) natural inclination.

Origin: L pro-, forth + clivus, slope

  • He had a proclivity to talk with his legs rather than lips.

Clime: (n) the poetic word for climate.

  • As the winter set in, the birds migrated to warmer climes.

Climax: (n) the highest point of a drama.

Origin: Gk klinein, to lean -> klimax, ladder

  • The women’s reservation bill, after years of heated debate all over the country and in the parliament, finally reached the climax of a parliamentary vote.

Anticlimax: (n) an event that is far less dramatic or powerful than expected.

Origin: anti + climax

  • The audience was expecting that the heroine of the movie would refuse to return to the hero and would choose the second hero who had stood with her in all her difficulties. But no such thing. The hero said sorry once and the heroine smiled and the end credits rolled. The ending was an anti-climax. No one wanted the heroine to go back to the hero after the pathetic way in which he had treated her.

Grope: (v) to feel with one’s hands, usually because one cannot see clearly.

  • The blind man groped along the staircase.

Flit: (v) to fly.


Incubus: (n) a mythological male ghost that lay on sleeping women and had sex with them; a nightmare; something that troubles and burdens one’s mind like a nightmare.

Origin: L in-, in + cubare, to lie => ‘to lie upon’ => ‘the ghost who lies upon sleeping women.’

  • The female counterpart of incubus was succubus. She was a female ghost that lay under sleeping men and had sex with them. (L sub-, under)

Incubate: (v) to sit upon eggs to hatch them.

Origin: L in-, in + cubare, to lie => ‘to lie upon’


Incumbent: (adj) current occupant of an office; binding.

Origin: L in-, in + cubare, to lie => ‘to lie upon’ => ‘currently sitting upon a chair’

  • The new incumbent in the college Principal’s office had a totally different style of functioning from his predecessor.
  • It was incumbent upon the eldest son of the family to be the breadwinner for the family after his father’s untimely death.

Recumbent: (adj) lying down; leaning back.

Origin: L re-, back + cubare, to lie

  • The statue depicted a recumbent woman lying luxuriously on the waves.

Succumb: (v) to surrender, give up.

Origin: L sub-, under + cubare, to lie

  • The accident victim succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital.

Blurt: (v) to utter inadvertently.

  • Try saying ‘blurt’ without opening your lips. I bet you can’t! The lips are closed tightly at the ‘b’, but then the ‘l’ sound originates in the throat and before you know it, your mouth has opened to let it out.

Somniloquy: (n) talking in sleep.

Origin: L somnus, sleep + loqui, to speak


Somnambulist: (n) sleepwalker

Origin: L somnus, sleep + ambulare, to walk


Somnolent: (adj) sleepy, drowsy.

Origin: L somnus, sleep

  • A somnolent lecture makes you sleepy.

Soporific is an exact synonym.


Insomnia: (adj) chronic sleeplessness

Origin: L in-, without + somnus, sleep


Soporific: (adj) sleep-producing

Origin: L sopor, sleep + facere, to make


Dormant: (adj) sleeping; inactive.

Origin: L dormire, to sleep

  • Many animals and trees become dormant in winter. This winter sleep is known as hibernation.

Quiescent: (adj) calm, inactive, dormant.

Origin: L quietis, calm

  • He was as quiescent as the deep sea.

Requiem: (n) a song or hymn for the dead.

Origin: L requies, rest, the first word of the Christian prayer spoken for a dead person


Acquiesce: (v) to agree to silently.

Origin: L ad-, to + quietis, calm

  • She did not really want to get married so soon but being the obedient daughter she was, she acquiesced to her parents’ wishes.

Acquit: (v) to free from blame.

Origin: L ad-, to + quietis, rest => ‘to lay charges to rest’

  • Finding no evidence to prove the charges on the accused, the judge acquitted him.

Quietude: (n) silence

Origin: L quietis, calm

  • Tiya had been very excited about travelling by a ship. But soon, the monotonous quietude of the sea began to bore her.

Coy: (n) shy, pretentiously shy.

Origin: L quietis, shy

  • When the hero complimented the heroine for her beauty, she coyly lowered her eyes.

Disquiet: (v) disturb

Origin: L dis- + quietis

  • Matrubhoomi is a disquieting film that shows what happens to a son-worshipping society that systematically decimates its girls. It is set in a village in which there is such a dearth of brides that rich families pay lakhs to get one and the poorer men have no recourse other than pornography, homosexuality or rape to satisfy their desire.

Siege: (v) to surround from all sides; (n) the act of surrounding a city or building from all sides

Origin: L sedere, to sit

  • The protestors laid siege to the hospital and did not let anybody enter or leave the building.
  • The protestors besieged the hospital.

Saddle: (n) the seat put on an animal for the rider.

Origin: related with L sedere, to sit


Sedate: (adj) not easily excited; calm, serious and dignified in manner.

  • In the movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi the heroine Tani finds her Staid husband boring.

Sedentary: (adj) sitting

Origin: L sedere, to sit

  • Those who work in sedentary jobs must make a habit of exercising for at least 45 minutes each day in order to avoid weight gain and stay healthy.

Residue: (n) left-over

Origin: L re-, back + sedere, to sit

  • Ash is the residue of burnt wood.

Supersede: (v) to take the place of another.

Origin: L super-, over + sedere, to sit

  • At the atomic level, Einstein’s theory of relativity superseded Newton’s laws of motions.
  • China superseded America as ‘the world’s biggest polluter.’

Prepossessing: (adj) attractive, impressive.

Origin: L pre-, beforehand + poti, master + sedere, to sit => ‘to control one’s mind beforehand’

  • The man had quite a prepossessing appearance.

Beset: (v) surround on all sides; harass.

Origin: be + set

  • Strongly drawn by an ambition to be a full-time writer, but beset by family financial crises that continued to the end of his life, Sundar Lal suffered periods of deep depression.
  • We could also have used the word beleaguer in the above sentence. It means the same as beset.

Ersatz: (n) an artificial substitute for the real thing.

Origin: Gmn ersetzen, to replace

  • The amusement park had many ersatz waterfalls.

Assiduous: (n) very devoted and hard working.

Origin: L ad-, to + sedere, to sit => ‘to sit near’

  • He studied assiduously to clear the IAS exam.

Subsidy: (n) monetary help given by the government or some organization or person.

Origin: L sub-, under + sedere, to sit => ‘to sit under’ => ‘to support’


Subsidiary: (n) subordinate

Origin: L sub-, under + sedere, to sit => ‘sitting under’

  • Maruti Suzuki India Limited is a subsidiary of Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan, which owns 54.2% of the company.

Insidious: (adj) spreading harmfully but silently; intending to trap and do harm.

Origin: L in-, upon + sedere, to sit => ‘to sit in wait for the prey to walk into the trap.’

  • Amma has been diabetic for 12 years now. Every year, her systems get weaker and weaker as she battles with this insiduous disease.

Dissident: (n) a person who disagrees.

Origin: L dis-, apart + sedere, to sit

  • The party President ruled the party like a tyrant. He tolerated no dissent and threw all dissidents out of his party.

Séance: (n) a session held by a spiritual leader to communicate with spirits of the death.

Origin: L sedere, to sit -> Fr seoir, to sit -> séance, a session


Niche: (n) a place that suits a person’s talents and abilities.

Origin: L nidus, nest

  • The writer found his niche in writing vampire stories.


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