without (adv., prep.) [<--] Old English wiðutan "outside of, from outside," literally "against the outside" (opposite of within), see with + out (adv.). [...]

I am guessing that here, the prefix with- means against, per the foregoing and this answer. However, if something is "against the outside", then it must be the opposite of 'outside': ie, INside or withIN. But then this is a contradiction. So where did I err in interpreting the dead metaphor?

Please expose and explain all this etymology's (hidden and missing) semantic drifts and links. What is a right way of interpreting the etymology, to understand how the semantic jumps abstracted and severed from the original literal meaning? What bridges the jumps with the original meaning?

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    Bjr, "against the outside" simply means "leaning against the outside". Imagine you're in a walled city. Something is outside, but hard against the wall .. leaning against the outside. It's that simple. – Fattie Jun 17 '15 at 18:53
  • Are you sure in against the outside against is a negation? A ladder leans against the outside of the house. They hold against each other.... – Daniel Jun 17 '15 at 18:53
  • @JoeBlow Almost at the same time... :-) – Daniel Jun 17 '15 at 18:53
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    @LePressentiment I used a different style to make it clear. I will repeat it, in a different fashion. "Are you sure in against the outside the word against is a negation?" – Daniel Jun 17 '15 at 18:57
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    I think he can be excused his misunderstanding, since the first definition of against is in opposition to, as in fighting against an enemy. – Barmar Jun 17 '15 at 21:51

Purely FTR,

"against" here simply means, basically "touching", "leaning against".

(Nothing more than as in "I am leaning against a wall".)

This decompresses all seeming mysteries sought in the OP.

  • +1. Thanks again. To clarify, is 'leaning against the outside' truly the opposite of within (as claimed by Etymonline in my OP)? Leaning against the outside of the wall, a ladder can be used to access the 'inside'. So how did "(leaning) against the outside" evolve into "outside of, from outside," ? – NNOX Apps Jun 22 '15 at 2:23
  • Your comments completely confuse me. (1) the "online dictionary" you mention has a definition for without. it mentions (for some reason) the opposite of without is within. so what? (2) secondly in explaining "without" it suggest the sentence fragment "leaning against the outside". You are trying to "link" these two facts. there is no link, the question exists only in your head. the concept: "'leaning against the outside' is the opposite of within" is a meaningless collection of words. No matter how many times you type it, I am afraid it means nothing. (Cont...) – Fattie Jun 22 '15 at 11:08
  • To repeat, if you type "'leaning against the outside' is the opposite of within" "'leaning against the outside' is the opposite of within" "'leaning against the outside' is the opposite of within" again and again, I'm afraid it remains totally meaningless. If you then "ask a question" about this ("how did it evolve"), that is an utterly meaningless concept, you are asking a question about a meaningless, random collection of words. I'm sorry. – Fattie Jun 22 '15 at 11:09
  • 1. From your answer, "against the outside" = 'leaning against the outside.' 2. Etymonline above claims that 1 = 'opposite of within'. 3. So I'm asking how 1 relates to 2. Clear now? – NNOX Apps Jul 9 '15 at 20:05
  • Hi LeP. Are you basically addressing the microscopic difference between "outside the castle in general" (just "outside") and "outside ........ leaning against the wall". Is that what you're getting at? if so there is very little to say, words always have many different extremely subtle variations. BTW note that "outside (the castle)" can imply "just" outside (say, within some meters...) ... "She's outside the gate!" Or it can imply, well, the entire say "region" ("the battalion are outside somewhere"). Or it can mean "the fields outside" (say ... within 1-2 km). – Fattie Jul 10 '15 at 5:55

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