I quote Etymonline. To wit, how did

in- "on" (from PIE root *en "in")
+ iungere "to join together" (from nasalized form of PIE root *yeug- "to join")

compound to mean

"impose (on), inflict; subject to; assign (to)"


1 Answer 1


The first few OED entries for enjoin tell the tale.

  1. trans. To join together. Obs.

  2. In early use: To impose (a penalty, task, duty, or obligation); said esp. of a spiritual director
    (to enjoin penance, etc.). Hence in mod. use: To prescribe authoritatively and with emphasis (an action, a course of conduct, state of feeling, etc.).

  3. To prohibit, forbid (a thing); to prohibit (a person) from (a person or thing, or some action).
    Now only in Law: To prohibit or restrain by an injunction.

So the way it worked was, first it was just joining together, then it became joining a rule with a person, then it became specialized on the nature of the rule, limiting it to a negative rule -- Don't Do X. Prohibitions have always constituted a pretty prominent variety of rule, after all.

  • Thanks. What do trans. and obs. mean?
    – user50720
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 8:11
  • 1
    @LePressentiment: Dictionary abbreviations; trans. identifies the verb enjoin as a transitive verb, and Obs. identifies the definition as Obsolete -- i.e, enjoin is no longer used to mean this in modern English (but may have been, in old texts). Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 14:28

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