I already understand so ask NOT about definitions, below which I instead purpose to burrow.
I heed the Etymological Fallacy.

ODO: Late 16th century: from Latin suffus- 'poured into', from sub- 'below, from below' + fundere 'pour'.

Etymonline entry for 'suffusion', to which the entry for 'suffuse' simply links: late 14c., from Latin suffusionem (nominative suffusio) "a pouring over," noun of action from past participle stem of suffundere "pour upon, overspread, suffuse," from sub "under" (see sub-) + fundere "to pour" (see found (v.2)).

  • What If I have an upside down cup of helium and I tip it, the helium will pour "up" right?
    – Jim
    Mar 12, 2015 at 16:56
  • Not in a vacuum it won't. Mar 12, 2015 at 16:56
  • Did I say it was in a vacuum?
    – Jim
    Mar 12, 2015 at 16:56
  • 3
    I assumed you did, but I couldn't hear you because you were in a vacuum. Mar 12, 2015 at 16:57
  • 1
    Do you impose too strict a logic on the attachment of meaning to verbal expressions? If you pour water into a sponge, the water will spread out under the exterior surface. The average human mind seems to enjoy free association without the excessive interference of logic.
    – Good A.M.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


You are misinterpreting the origin. The intended meaning of the prefix sub- in this case is not from below; it is below. For suffuse, it changes the subject of the verb from the thing that does the pouring to the thing into which the pouring takes place. Here, below is used as a literal description, but also as an analogy.


When you pour something from a jug to a cup, the cup is physically below the jug.


One who receives work from another is metaphorically below the person providing the work. —the thing being poured is the work.

Something is suffused from something that diffuses.

  • 1
    I was typing something to this effect and saw your answer. I would only add that a use of 'suffuse' as a verb meaning to pour up from, brings to mind leaky basements and hot springs, where water may literally appear to be poured up and out of the ground. Mar 12, 2015 at 16:58
  • The directionality of the pour is not actually specified by the usage of suffuse, so it is important to not confuse the issue. If your basement walls had leaks instead of the floor, the room would still be described as suffused with water. Mar 12, 2015 at 17:00
  • This is an interesting theory. Are you aware of any definitive corroboration?
    – Ed Miller
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:25
  • I was unable to find any acceptable etymology definition for this word when I was constructing my answer. I deduced this information based on the etymologies and meanings of similar words. Mar 16, 2015 at 23:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.