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Etymonline for: 'exert (adj.)' = 1660s, "thrust forth, push out," from Latin exertus/exsertus, past participle of exerere/exserere "thrust out, put forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + serere "attach, join" (see series). Meaning "put into use" is 1680s.

OED: ... The formation is probably due to antithesis with inserĕre (to insert v.) ...

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 the etymology, to make it feel reasonable and intuitive? In particular,

1. Then how did ex- + serere combine to mean the modern definition? How does it make sense to 'attach or join out' something?

2. I question OED's entry, because it contains the guarding or hedge word probably, and doesn't answer my question 1 above.

  • etymonline.com/index.php?term=assertion&allowed_in_frame=0 sparked my conjecture: The prefix ex- suggests that something is going OUT. So if you attach, join to this outbound thing, then you may be helping to push OUT this something. How does this sound? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Aug 12 '15 at 3:39
  • I'd say that to Exert implies a form of Contact. You can't exert pressure, or influence, on something unless you're already in touch with it; in other words 'attached'. As with the application of any force. – JHCL Sep 4 '15 at 9:53

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