I'm not asking about the definitions of estrange and strange, and I realise that modern usage isn't a strict function of the original meaning of a word. I wish to know why English appropriated both words.

Etymonline doesn't explain this. Its mention of the Modern French « étrange », worsens my confusion, because it insinuates some hidden reason why French only appropriated one Latin word. I read OED but it's too brusque; so I don't quote it.

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    Because it would be strange for English not to.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 18:15
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    There is no central registry or authority about how people talk, so there is no "adoption" ceremony and no record is kept about when who uses which word where and how. So a word can be "adopted" millions of times before it takes. Why it takes in some cases and not in others is as random as any other mutational evolutionary phenomenon. Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 18:34
  • There is no answer as to why, even though a decent answer can tell you when, based on extant samples.
    – pazzo
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 21:30
  • I've never heard of the word 'estrange' before - it must be very uncommon. A better example would be why we have both 'especially' and 'specially'. Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


English borrowed estrange (the adjective) from the French in the 13th century. This was early enough that it lost the initial 'e', like strive, strait, strap, strife, stable (from estriver, estrait, estrop, estrif, estable, all borrowed mid-14th century or earlier).

The verb estrange was borrowed in the late 15th century, after the adjective strange had already lost its initial e. Words borrowed in the 15th century and later seem to have kept their initial 'e', like establish (borrowed in the late 14th century) and estop (borrowed 15th century).

You can see from my examples that this isn't the only time something like this has happened: establish and stable come from very similar words in French, but stable was borrowed earlier.


While "Strange" is an ADJECTIVE, "Estrange" is a VERB. Both words are required, so both have been adopted (or adapted) into English. Otherwise, some new word(s) would have been required for the verb form.

Consider the word Cactus from latin. It was borrowed together with the plural form cacti, but some folks use cactuses, which is a "new" word formed with English "rules" for plurals.

In the case of "Strange" & "Estrange", both forms are borrowed, rather than borrowing one word and making a new word for the variations.

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    This does not answer the question, which is why the SAME word (Old French estrange) was borrowed into English twice, with two different forms in English.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 18:47
  • @fdb, I am not sure what you mean. (A) OP is saying "I wish to know why English appropriated both words." and I replied that English requires both forms ADJECTIVE & VERB, otherwise it has to make a new word (B) The provided reference Etymonline says that there were 2 Different French words "Old French estrange" & "Middle French estrangier" which were borrowed.
    – Prem
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 13:35
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    @Prem Sorry, but I meant to say something alike to user 'fdb' 's comment above. Why was the same ROOT, whatever it was (instead of 2 later disparate French words) borrowed into English twice, with two different forms in English? Does your answer explain this?
    – user50720
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 3:45
  • @LawArea51Proposal-Commit , No Problem, you should edit your question for clarity. Unfortunately , I do not know about the "Why", and currently I do not see any answer (or comment) regarding the "Why". The only other answer (by Peter Shor) gives the timelines when it happened & mentions that is is a common occurrence, but does not answer the "why". Maybe somebody will answer soon.
    – Prem
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 3:55

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