Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Word of the Day: Fugitive

The word 'fugitive' is an interesting one because of its origins; it is one of many words (yes, many!) that come from the Latin fugere — 'to run away, flee, move quickly away from and escape'.

The Latin phrase tempus fugit is thus translated 'time flies' by most people; that is, it eludes us, it escapes us by passing by too quickly for us to seize it. What I like about 'fugitive' is that it is not supposed to connote the sense of 'hiding from something' but that of 'escaping by being fast and elusive'.

That's why we learn about 'subterfuge', which means 'escaping by going underground' (fromsub- meaning 'below' and terr- meaning 'earth, ground') and 'centrifuge', which is about 'escaping (from) the centre'.

The meaning of such words, sadly, seems elusive. The fugitive sense of fugitive is what has drawn me to hunt down its etymology for my dear readers.

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