Chapter 14: Compound Words in Latin
The verb agere (“do” or “drive”) has a set of well-disguised compounds. Here the original verb root has been reduced to -ig-, as in navigate (nav-ig-atus) and navigation < nav-ig-at-io < navis + agere, “ship-driving.” From lis, litis (“lawsuit”) came lit-ig-are (E litigate, litigant) and lit-ig-i-osus (E litigious). So fumus > fumigate (“drive smoke”), and castus > castigate (“drive pure”; i.e., “rebuke,” “correct”). Even in Roman antiquity, castigate had acquired the force of its English doublets, chasten and chastise.
From ferre (“bring,” “bear”) came English compound derivatives in -fer and –ferous. We’ve already seen conifer (with its adjective coniferous). Vociferous is “voice-bringing”; pestiferous, “pest-bringing.” The epithet Lucifer (“Light-bearer”) was applied to the morning planet Venus long before the name acquired its Satanic connotations. In French, a “mammal” is a mammifère (“breast-bearer”). A classicist might misread the modern slogan Prolifer (Pro-lifer) as prol-i-fer (“bearer of offspring”), Latin source of the denominative verb proliferate. If prolific Pro-lifers proliferate, will they become aware of that highly appropriate coincidence?
In §83 we met the compounds omn-i-scient (“all-knowing”) and omn-i-potent (“all-powerful”). Omn-i-vorous, like carn-i-vorous, derives from vorare (“eat,” “devour”)—source of vorax (< E voracious), §88. The –parous part of oviparous (L ov-i-par-us), “egg-laying,” is the verb parĕre, partus (“bring forth,” “produce”). So, too, viviparous (L viv-i-par-us), “producing live offspring.”
Compounds with bene– and male– include the antonyms benefactor and malefactor, discussed under facere; benevolent (“well-wishing”) and malevolent; benediction (“blessing”) and malediction (“curse”).