Language & Literature

Where Does the Word Candidate Come From?

Millie

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and on Glossologics, and shares her children’s stories on Kidscapers.

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Today is election day in UK, when the citizens of the country choose their new government. You can read all about how the elections work here. You wouldn’t think that dress codes of ancient Rome would affect the elections of today, but they do! Millie Slavidou explains.

Today is a good day to think about the word ‘candidate’. I rather like the etymology of this one.

It comes from Latin candidus, which is the past participle* of candidare, which meant ‘to make white, to make bright’.

Not because of whitewashing whatever the candidates might have said or done! It was because in ancient Rome candidates who wanted to be elected either to the Senate or any other office wore white robes.

If we take it one step further back, to a root meaning ‘white, shining’, we find that ‘candle’ is a cognate.**

 

*Past Particle

The past particle is the past form of the verb that can also be used as an adjective, like “a fallen tree”. In the case above, the adjective is like saying ‘whitened’ in English. Other examples of past particles are:

verb: bite
past particle: bitten
example: a bitten apple

verb: choose
past particle: chosen
example: aa chosen present

verb: crash
past particle: crashed
example: a crashed bicycle

 

**Cognates

A cognate is a distant relative, a word ultimately from the same root. Like a third cousin. Here are some examples of cognates.

 

14126405243_c179f6f9b8_qBook is related to beech. Well, actually, book means beech! Both come from Germanic word meaning beech tree, Buche.

Germanic runes were originally inscribed on tablets made of beech wood. Modern German for book is Buch!

 

2400500463_67988839f0_qWOOL and FLANNEL are distant cognates.  Today, fashion stores often describe plaid shirts as ‘flannel’, but it is actually a soft woven fabric, originally made of wool, but now often cotton or synthetic. You might have a flannel pyjamas, which are lovely and cosy in the winter!
The word wool is from a Proto Indo European root *wele meaning ‘wool’.
 In Welsh, the word gwlanen, means ‘wool’ and is from the same root. The word flannel comes from the woollen vests that were made, presumably by Welsh traders from Welsh sheep –  Gwlanen became fwlanen, and then flannel. So wool and flannel are distant cousins!

 

5556105449_ebe9616b47_q 14322245779_00c3428d73_qToday’s featured image is Marasmiellus candidus, a type of mushroom. You will often find the word ‘candidus’ used in botany or biology to describe something that is white, such as crocus candidus or the white woodpecker Melanerpes Candidus. There is even a white monkey called Propithecus candidus. 

Crocus Image

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Language & Literature, Written By You

My Multilingual Life – Written By You

Written By You

These posts were written by our young readers. If you'd like to contribute to Jump! Mag, read our guidelines here, and get in touch!

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‘Do you speak English?’
For British and American girls who travel to a different country, that question is often the first sentence we learn.

 

‘Sprechen Sie Englisch’

‘Parlez-vous Anglais’

‘habla usted Inglés’

‘Вы говорите по-английски’

‘您说英语吗’

 

What is it like for the estimated two thirds of the world’s population who speak at least two languages? The people who we refer to as ‘bilingual’, if they speak two languages, and sometimes as ‘multilingual’, if they speak more than two languages.

The researcher and writer David Crystal estimates that of the approximately 570 million people in the world who speak English, over 41% are bilingual in English and some other language.

Today’s contributor knows all about speaking more than one language.

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