Friday, December 02, 2016


The Word Sincere

Essays and Tales, by John Sterling, Collected and Edited, with a Memoir of His Life, by Julius Charles Hare, Vol. I (London: John W. Parker, 1848), p. v (from Hare's "Sketch of the Author's Life"):
He used to relate that, when he was about nine years old, he was much struck by his master's telling him that the word sincere was derived from the practice of filling up flaws in furniture with wax, whence sine cera came to mean pure, not vampt up. This explanation, he said, gave him great pleasure, and abode in his memory, as having first shown him that there is a reason in words as well as in other things: nor was it the worse for this purpose from having been drawn from the practice of Monmouth Street, rather than of the primeval upholsterers of ancient Italy.
The etymology is bogus. See Alfred Ernout and Alfred Meillet, Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Latine. Histoire des Mots, 4th ed. (Paris: Klincksieck, 2001), p. 627, and Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 565.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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