I know of the 2 different homonyms behind 'rejoin'; I ask only about the one that means 'to retort'.

rejoin (v.2) [⟸] "to answer," mid-15c., legal term,
from Middle French rejoin-, stem of rejoindre "to answer to a legal charge,"
from Old French re- "back" (see re-) + joindre "to join" (see join).
General (non-legal) meaning first recorded 1630s.

rejoinder (n.) [⟸] mid-15c., from Middle French noun use of rejoindre (see rejoin (v.2)). Originally "defendant's answer to the replication" (the fourth stage in the pleadings in an action at common law). For noun use of infinitive in French law terms, see waiver.

Please help me dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. Please expose and explain all hidden, missing semantic drifts and links. How should the etymology be interpreted, to understand how the semantic drifts abstracted and severed from the original literal meaning?

1. How did re- "back" + joindre "to join" combine to mean the above?
What or who is joining back, to what, where, or whom?

2. The Modern French verb rejoindre doesn't possess the definition above. Does anyone know why?

  • compare the battle is joined. also, in legal terminology, when a suit is slated to go to trial, it is said to be joined. These are examples of using "join" to refer to engaging in an adversarial contest. Apr 25, 2015 at 6:56
  • 2
    As with @Mari-LouA I find your questions repetitive. You seem to be under the impression that word evolution is straightforward. You should think of it more like those puzzles where you have to turn one word into another in N steps, where you replace just one letter in each step.
    – Barmar
    Apr 27, 2015 at 20:52
  • Imagine an etymologist 1,000 years from now trying to explain why some word derived from green has a meaning related to economical use of a resource (not necessarily related to the environment).
    – Barmar
    Apr 27, 2015 at 23:43
  • @Barmar I understand that etymology can be a puzzle, but do you mean that you reject the advice from english.stackexchange.com/questions/205571/…, which I'm trying to follow?
    – user50720
    Apr 28, 2015 at 18:48
  • 3
    Maybe it's just an interpretation, but your frequency and style of questions seems to suggest that you expect straightforward relationships between a word's meaning and its etymology. It seems like you're just going through the dictionary, writing a question every time you can't see the connection.
    – Barmar
    Apr 28, 2015 at 18:56

2 Answers 2



rejoinder (n.) mid-15c., from Middle French noun use of rejoindre (see rejoin (v.2)). Originally "defendant's answer to the replication" (the fourth stage in the pleadings in an action at common law).

In other words, in French the word rejoindre attained a specific meaning in courts of law, separate from its general meaning (just like dock in English law is not a place where you tie up boats).

The English word "rejoinder" is based on that specific meaning from French law, not the general meaning. It has no connection to the English word "rejoin".

  • Sorry, but it’s unclear to me how this answers my question. Did you read my OP? I quoted Etymonline there already.
    – user50720
    Jul 14, 2015 at 4:00
  • @LePressentiment - It means that the French rejoindre attained a specific meaning in French law, separate from its general meaning. The English term is based on that specific meaning, not the general meaning. Just like "dock" is English law is not a place where you tie up boats.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 14, 2015 at 11:41
  • Thank you for your comment, but how did the etymons of rejoindre evolve to mean what you wrote (ie '"defendant's answer to the replication"). How and what does a defendant's answer re- + join?
    – user50720
    Jul 14, 2015 at 14:57
  • Would you please respond in your answer, which is easier to read than comments?
    – user50720
    Jul 14, 2015 at 14:58

Here's what I found: Origin 1425-75; late Middle English rejoinen < Anglo-French rejoyner, variant of Middle French rejoindre, equivalent to re- re- + joindre to join

As a French language enthusiast, I know the French verb 'rejoindre' means get back (to s.o), meet (s.o again), catch up with (s.o). It also means rejoin. But it doesn't mean 'reply', as you've noticed.

English and French have some commonalities, as they belong to the family of "Indo-European Languages".

However, they both have evolved over time and the words have acquired different nuances, I believe. This is quite normal and it shouldn't surprise anyone.

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