to entail = 1. Involve (something) as a necessary or inevitable part or consequence:

Per the following, what semantic fields underlie 1 and 2, and explain 1's semantic shift to 2?

[ Etymonline: ] [1.] mid-14c., "convert (an estate) into 'fee tail' (feudum talliatum)," from en- (1) "make" + taile "legal limitation," especially of inheritance, ruling who succeeds in ownership and preventing it from being sold off, from Anglo-French taile, Old French taillie, past participle of taillier "allot, cut to shape," from Late Latin taliare (see tailor (n.)).
[3.] Sense of "have consequences" is 1829,
from [2.] notion of "inseparable connection." [...]


First and foremost: do not approach language with a predetermined idea of logic. It will only cause frustration and possibly despair. While logic may be expressed in language, language is not well expressed in logic.

The Etymonline text you quote gives a very strong hint as to the change in meaning, and if you would look up fee tail, I think the connection may become clearer.

"Fee tail" means that an estate can only be inherited by specific people (offspring of the current owner, and not by anyone else who might inherit from the owner.) That means that the ownership of the estate now has an inseparable connection with the (blood) family of the current owner.

As Etymonline says, from the notion of that inseparable connection, the sense of having consequences developed (consequences being inseparable results of an action!)

Simply said, where originally the word referred to consequences that were restricted to inheritance, since 1829 the meaning got broadened to having consequences in general.

Whether that is logical, I leave up to you... did I mention that language and logic do not always play together too well?


In the OED you have to scroll down a long way to find meaning 5. It is the simplest and most recent meaning of entail. And it appears that we have the poet Robert Southey, writing on Sir Thomas More, to thank for creating this use, which nowadays must be its most frequent. So to answer your question, the inflected meaning seems to have been the coinage of a poet.

  1. Simply. To bring on by way of necessary consequence. Of premises: To involve logically, necessitate (a particular conclusion).

1829 R. Southey Sir T. More I. 267 A conquest which brought with it no evil and entailed no regret.

1839 E. D. Clarke Trav. Var.

Countries (new ed.) 134/1 The scheme..was found to entail greater evils than those he was labouring to put down.

1853 Thackeray

Newcomes (1854) I. iii. 32 The weight of business which this present affliction entails.

1856 P. E. Dove Logic Christian Faith Introd. 4

That failure would not entail the conclusion that, etc.

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