Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Comparing the words indemnify and condemn:

  • Both contain demn as a root
  • Both are transitive verbs

Why is one spelled differently from the other – why not indemn, or condemnify?

share|improve this question
3  
Just as an FYI, you are confusing affix with root. There are three types of affixes: prefixes (attached to beginning of the root), suffixes (attached to end of root) and infixes (attached inside a root). –  Mark T Aug 23 '11 at 20:03
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Because the root words are, respectively, Latin indemnis (adj.), and Latin condemnare (v.). So condemn (con = "with", demn = "hurt") in Latin is the base of the verb, and needs only an ending to become a complete verb. When a word is transliterated to English, any ending is dropped, in this case resulting in condemn. (Note that the process involves a Latin verb becoming an English verb.)

However, the base indemn (in = "not", demn = "hurt") was apparently (for reasons unknown to me) not chosen from a verb but from an adjective. When this happens, an English adjective-to-verb ending is appended to the word (indemn); in this case, -ify was chosen to turn the adjective into a verb - hence indemnify. (Here, note that the process involves a Latin adjective becoming an English verb.)

share|improve this answer
1  
Very nice! There's also indemnity, making it a noun. –  Richard Aug 23 '11 at 20:13
    
drɱ65 δ: Excellent, thanks. Next I'll have to read up on the relation between affixes and root. Embarrasingly, I wasn't aware of root before. Thus, double thanks. –  hced Aug 23 '11 at 23:00
add comment

Indemnify comes from the Latin indemnus, indemnum; the -nus and -num depend on the case of the word, so -nify is actually an ending, and not part of the regular -mn spelling or pronunciation. Though they both have been derived from damnus (to penalize), indemnify is taken from the noun indemnity, and condemn is a verb.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.