[Etymonline for 'ludicrous (adj.)'] 1610s, "pertaining to play or sport," from Latin ludicrus, from ludicrum "a sport, game, toy, source of amusement, joke," from ludere "to play," which, with Latin ludus "a game, play," perhaps is from Etruscan,
or perhaps from PIE root *leid- "to play." Sense of "ridiculous" is attested from 1782. ...

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? I don’t quote the brusque OED’s entry.

  • Your question makes no sense. You're showing the etymology for "ludicrous", not "play" or even "ridiculous". – Hot Licks Apr 23 '15 at 14:15
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    "A sport, game, toy, source of amusement, joke": isn't that clear enough? Can you be more specific about why this is not obvious (enough) to you? The connection from playing through joking to making fun of something seems fairly obvious to me; what they have in common is non-seriousness. What kind of an answer do you expect, could you give an example? Do note that the finest semantic changes in the etymology of a word are rarely known; we usually only have a fairly crude idea of what happened based on the evidence. – Cerberus Apr 24 '15 at 2:56
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    Well, if something is a joke, it is not taken seriously, you may laugh about it. So it may be ridiculous. You should know that etymology is largely an arbitrary process: there is no "reason" why the meaning of lucrum evolved this way into that of ludicrous: it might just as well have evolved in entirely different ways. – Cerberus Apr 24 '15 at 12:51
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    @Cerberus Thank you. That helps, but please forgive my naivety and dullness with connecting etymology. I do wish to improve! – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Apr 25 '15 at 2:35
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    @LawArea51Proposal-Commit: Hah, perhaps you just expect too much of the art of etymology... – Cerberus Apr 25 '15 at 17:25

Well, "play with someone" can mean "put someone on"


put (someone) on the spot (not formal): to place (someone) in a dangerous, difficult or embarrassing position

The distance from "embarrassing" to "ridiculous" is easy to cross :-)

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    How does this answer the question? – Dan Bron Apr 23 '15 at 13:39
  • Sorry, but would you please clarify how this answers my question? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Apr 24 '15 at 2:38


ツ it belongs to language evolution - interexchange of phonetic radicals see also metathesis simillar to the evolution from Latin crocodilus > Italian coccodrillo 'crocodile'


"ludricous" could have evolved as a missspelling of "ridiculous" French ridicule


metathetical error (exchange of phonetic segments/radicals) rdcl ==> ldrc ツ

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    Hi, nomo, and welcome to English Language & Usage. Have you come across any published account of the etymology of ludicrous that suggests that either metathesis or phonemic paraphasia played a role in the word's development? If so, can you link to that account and provide a very short summary of the relevant analysis? – Sven Yargs Jul 20 '16 at 4:40

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