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In the game League of Legends, the character Vi is known for her violent, aggressive, fight-loving nature, and isn't shy about expressing it. When asked what her name is short for, she has a different response each time, with each relating to this nature.

"Vi? Stands for Violence!!"
"Vi? Stands for Vice!"
"Vi? Heh... stands for Vicious!"

Beyond being a humorous joke, is the fact that these words have a similar theme more than a coincidence? Is vi a root word or prefix that has some meaning which causes this relation? Are there other words that begin with vi- that also fit this theme?

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There's villain, vindictive, vile, etc. But plenty of more "positive" words like vicar, vigor, violin, violet. I don't think there's much of a pattern there. –  FumbleFingers Jan 17 '13 at 17:29
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Wordlist has 411 words beginning with vi. Your guess is as good as mine about how many of them are pejorative. –  John Lawler Jan 17 '13 at 17:33
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@Mitch: vi is also an important term in UNIX™, where it owes an etymological debt not to Victoria, but to vision. –  John Lawler Jan 17 '13 at 18:04
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In my experience "Vi" is most often short for "Violet" (as in Violet Beauregarde, but -- generally -- older women these days). –  Andrew Leach Jan 17 '13 at 18:48
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My front door neighbor's daughter is named Vi. Just Vi. Not short for anything. –  Marthaª Jan 17 '13 at 20:31
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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Vi is proper Latin, and it means "with violence, violently", the ablative of vis, "force, violence", from Proto-Indo-European *u̯i-, with similar meaning, and probably related to various other roots and their reflexes. Words like vir "man", virtus "might, virtue", violo "violate" (all senses) come from *vi-.

If you scribble v.c. next to your signature on a contract, it is said that you can thereby prove that you signed under duress, where v.c. stands for vi coactus, "coerced by violence". Presumably, illiterate criminals won't notice at the time of signing.

English vice and vicious come from Latin vitium "fault, vice", which comes from another, apparently unrelated Proto-Indo-European root *u̯i- meaning "apart, separate" (a vice may be errant from the right path?). This is probably related to evito "to avoid", related to English inevitable.

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La vi est belle! –  RegDwigнt Jan 18 '13 at 11:09
    
@RegDwigh: .... –  Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 14:53
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Not really.

Vicious is indeed related to vice and originally was the adjective form of it. But that "originally" goes back to the Latin words from which they each derive, and the meaning has shifted since.

Violence is completely different, coming from the latin violare, rather than vitium as vice and, ultimately, vicious does.

So while there is some degree of relationship between two of the words you give, there isn't between them and the first and it so it wouldn't seem to be something the writers where deliberately keying off.

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When a group of retirement communities recently changed its name to Vi, all the neighbors wondered what the word means...

Vi

I guess they were not thinking of vicious.

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lol. I really like this answer, but joke answers always seem to get downvoted. I guess that's for the best in the long run, but its a shame. :-) –  T.E.D. Jan 17 '13 at 19:24
    
I found it amusing =) –  Southpaw Hare Jan 17 '13 at 20:02
    
"In 2008, Classic Residence by Hyatt sold its trademark and agreed to discontinue use of the Hyatt name. When the new name - Vi - was revealed to residents at its Palo Alto community in June 2010, there was reportedly 'an audible escape of air from the aged crowd' that included 'murmurings of disbelief'." LOL. –  Jon Hanna Jan 17 '13 at 20:39
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The main connection is that those words all have Latin roots. Latin happened to be rather fond of starting words with vi. For example, one of the most famous Latin quotes of all time, veni vidi vici, has every single word starting with those two letters. "Came", "saw", and "conquered" aren't exactly related concepts (unless you are Caesar, I guess).

If you find it coincidence that so many "vi" words imply some manner of seediness or violence, perhaps that's all it is. Another possible explanation is the preoccupation of the Romans with such things. I know back when I was taking Latin if I was presented with a vocabulary word I didn't know, I'd guess some word relating to violence or warfare. It probably didn't work much, but that tells you what my younger self thought the inclination of that language was. :-)

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That hardly follows. The writers were hardly going to have her say "Vi is for vitreous" (well, maybe if some plot twist means that part-way through the game you find out she's made of glass). It's a set of words pre-selected for those qualities, when the querent came across them. –  Jon Hanna Jan 17 '13 at 19:02
    
@JonHanna - Not disagreeing. However, it is a fact (and I believe not entirely a coincidental one) that they all have Latin roots. I'm arguing effect here, not cause. –  T.E.D. Jan 17 '13 at 19:18
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