What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 3 that helps to internalise its meaning:

3. to provide [with clause] = Stipulate in a will or other legal document:

Etymonline doesn't explain this meaning.

In particular, why are these (legal?) definitions of “provide” and “provision” stronger than the usual ones?

provide (of a law or decision) to say that something must happen if particular conditions exist

Source: definition of “provide” in Cambridge Dictionaries Online

provision a statement within an agreement or a law that a particular thing must happen or be done Source: definition of “provision” in Cambridge Dictionaries Online

Would someone please explain their etymologies and the reasoning behind these stricter meanings? Please explain the steps or thought processes, so that I can do this by myself in the future?

closed as off-topic by Fattie, Robusto, FumbleFingers, user66974, tchrist Sep 15 '14 at 21:15

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  • 2
    I hope you pass your legal exam (entry?) soon, all these legal terms are quite tedious. Why are you taking the exam in English? – Mari-Lou A Sep 13 '14 at 7:51
  • 2
    You would better start the research from provide in the legal sense. Exactly as in etymonline: "look ahead, prepare, supply, act with foresight," making a "provision" with regard to an actual situation that may arise in course of time. cf. "provided" in sense of "on the condition that, having stated already." – Kris Sep 13 '14 at 7:59
  • Your ODO link points to 'leverage' – Frank Sep 13 '14 at 8:13
  • Please see this Meta question on research, which specifically mentions cut-and-paste preparation of questions is Not A Good Thing. – Andrew Leach Sep 13 '14 at 9:59
  • Also internalise means bring inside; make internal or part of one's nature and is definitely not the word to use here. – Andrew Leach Sep 13 '14 at 10:01

provide OED1

2 intr. To exercise foresight in taking due measures in view of a possible event; to make provision or adequate preparation. Const. for, against.

c. To make it, or lay it down as, a provision or arrangement; to stipulate that. Cf. provided 5, providing pres. pple., provision 5.

That didn't sound 'legal' enough so I had a look at proviso.

[a. L. prōvīsō, abl. neut. sing. pa. pple. of prōvid-ēre to provide, as used in med.L. legal phrase prōvīsō quod ‘it being provided that’ (1350 in Du Cange).]

1 The L. ablative absolute = ‘it being provided’, used conjunctively. Obs. rare.

2 A clause inserted in a legal or formal document, making some condition, stipulation, exception, or limitation, or upon the observance of which the operation or validity of the instrument depends; a condition; hence, generally, a stipulation, provision.

"proviso". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/proviso (accessed September 13, 2014).

A condition or qualification attached to an agreement or statement:

Origin - late Middle English: from the medieval Latin phrase proviso (quod) 'it being provided (that)', from Latin providere 'foresee, provide'.

OED1 is no longer copyrighted, you can find downloads and PDFs on the internet - there's a link somewhere on this very site to it. You'll find it more helpful for legal terms, that are antiquated in normal use, than most modern on-line dictionaries.

In this answer https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2574/71783 [MετάEd https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/users/14073 ] there is a link to each volume of OED1 - almost every word you are looking for will be in there, with a complete list of all it's different (and obscure) meanings (except any that have been added in the last 100 years).


  • While vols 1-8 of OED1 are 100 or more years old, vols 9 and 10 (Si–Z) are 85 to 95 years old. The Supplement (vol 11, 1933) makes OED1 up to date through about 1933. [BTW, all it's needs no ' ] – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 13 '14 at 18:09

The Latin verb pro-vide:re (pro in front, ahead, for, as to the future and vide:re to see) is a paragon of semantics. Already in Latin this verb develops meanings that can be seen as the near consequence.

If Caesar foresees that his soldiers will be lacking of corn and food, the consequence will be that he finds means to get enough food. And he will deliver food for his soldiers. The English verb to provide today is not used as to foresee, but has all the meanings that are connected with the consequences when someone foresees a lack of something.

In a last will "to provide" means to stipulate something. This is a consequence of foreseeing that certain things must be arranged, otherwise things wouldn't run well.

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