adjacent = 1. Next to or adjoining something else

Etymonline for: adjacent (adj.) = early 15c., from Latin adiacentem (nominative adiacens) "lying at," present participle of adiacere "lie at, border upon, lie near,"
from ad- "to" (see ad-) + iacere "to lie, rest," literally "to throw" (see jet (v.)),
with notion of "to cast (oneself) down."

Please help me dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but what are some right ways of interpreting this meaning, to make it feel reasonable and intuitive? In particular,

1. How did "to throw" evolve to mean "to lie, rest," ?

2. Then how did ad- + iacere combine to mean the modern definition?

  • To "lie near" seems pretty close to the modern definition of "adjacent". I don't know where you get "to throw" or "jet", it just sounds like your making stuff up. – aaa90210 Apr 21 '15 at 4:46

Because the meaning of words expands over many generations, the thought process is not necessarily logical, but a little imagination helps us to understand how words progress from one meaning to the next. Adjacent appears to be related to jet through the Latin iacere:

early 15c., from Latin adiacentem (nominative adiacens) "lying at," present participle of adiacere "lie at, border upon, lie near,"

from ad- "to" (see ad-) + iacere "to lie, rest," literally "to throw"

(see jet (v.))

early 15c., "to prance, strut, swagger," from Middle French jeter "to throw, thrust," from Late Latin iectare, abstracted from deiectare, proiectare, etc., in place of Latin iactare "toss about," frequentative of iacere "to throw, cast," from PIE root *ye- "to do" (cognates: Greek iemi, ienai "to send, throw;" Hittite ijami "I make"). Meaning "to sprout or spurt forth" is from 1690s.

etymonline.com emphasis mine

Among other things, the prefix ad- means toward and near:

word-forming element expressing direction toward or in addition to, from Latin ad "to, toward" in space or time; "with regard to, in relation to," as a prefix, sometimes merely emphatic, from PIE *ad- "to, near, at" (cognate with Old English æt; see at).

etymonline.com emphasis mine


Once someone throws something inanimate, it just sits there. Many years ago, my great-great-grandfather threw that big pile of rocks toward the old oak tree. Under his control, the rocks flew to the tree. After all these years, the pile of rocks still sits there--adjacent to the old oak tree.

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I know this may not be a reliable source, but my teacher of Latin explained to me that iacere over time assumed the meaning of its passive form.

So the active meaning of throw moved towrds a passive meaning of "be thrown" - and more specifically, the result of being thrown, which is laying somewhere.

Over time the reasonably aggressive connotation of the throwing or thrusting has disappeared. Hence we actually find HIC IACET on many gravestones. That text does not imply that the deceased was "thrown" into that grave, but rather, that a person "lies here".

(I used to think that it marked the spot where someone fell, but I have since been corrected.)

Now, if iacere evolved from throw to lay by its passive meaning of (the result of) being thrown, it seems no far stretch to see adiacere, "to be thrown towards someplace" to evolve in the same way: (the result of) being thrown towards someplace => lying close to or next to someplace.

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