Thursday, June 03, 2004
A Grotesque Word
Cicero imported Plato's 'poiotes' from Greek into Latin, coining the equivalent 'qualitas' (from 'qualis' = 'of what sort'). See his Academica 1.6.24-1.7.25, where he says (tr. H. Rackham):
I will do my best to talk Latin, except in the case of words of the sort now in question, so as to employ the term 'philosophy' or 'rhetoric' or 'physics' or 'dialectic' [all loan words from Greek], which like many others are now habitually used as Latin words. I have therefore given the name of 'qualities' to the things that the Greeks call 'poiotetes'; even among the Greeks it is not a word in ordinary use, but belongs to the philosophers.English 'quality' is derived from Latin 'qualitas,' but it has escaped from philosophical discourse into everyday use.