What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning?

subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else:

Etymonline: 1530s, from Modern Latin subsumere "to take under," from Latin sub "under" (see sub-) + sumere "to take" (see exempt (adj.)).

  • Sorry, I don't see how 'roundness' fits into the context of 'subsume'?? Plus, the etymology is quite clear...what is unclear to you?
    – user66974
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:35
  • @Josh61 I apologise and emended. I don't know how to interpret 'take + under' it's not clear to me at all sadly.
    – user50720
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:44
  • I take it as "taking under one's wing". I think it may come from some institution falling under the jurisdiction of another body, e.g., universities being under the church's control and influence (which is what I immediately thought of). Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:50

2 Answers 2


Under is very often used in the sense of "being under direct influence of" (you work under me) or "being governed by" (you fall under these regulations).

If something falls under the government of, for instance, a state, we can say:

After the battle, the city fell under the kingdom of the victorious king.

From there it is only a small step to use under in the meaning of "being a part of":

In the animal kingdom, lions fall under the category of mammals.

Thefreedictionary explains this use of fall under.

Under the "miscellaneous" category we put everything that doesn't belong elsewhere.

  • Thank you. In your penultimate sentence, you wrote fall under, but the etymology is: under" + "take". So how does fall become take ?
    – user50720
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 21:54
  • @LawArea51Proposal-Commit If you understand the meaning of fall under, I assumed that the meaning of take under would be easy to understand. Once you see the meaning of under in the sense of "being part of", take sth under would logically mean make sth become part of
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 8:48

The word 'Subsume' has multiple meanings. One of its meanings is "to incorporate or to take up"

This word is often used in commercial fields. Subsume also means to include or absorb as you said.

The latin meaning 'to take under' is with realtion to the former meaning. The latter may just be a part of regular conclusion of the language.

Here are all the meaning of the word 'subsume' :-


Hope this helps.

  • Sorry for any confusion, but your answer appears to state only the definition, whereas I ask about the etymology?
    – user50720
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 21:52

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