Do predation and predating share a common etymology?

Predation seems to imply that one species holds precedence over another species in the food chain, whereas predating seems to imply that one event holds precedence over another in the linear progression of time.

Both words obviously share the prefix pre, but my question is more about the dat part of each word.

What is the origin of dat in early English or in Latin or the Romance languages Latin gave birth to?

And how does that origin explain the meaning of the modern words predation and predating?

  • They have the same relationship as antedating has with auntie-dating: none whatsoever. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


"Predation," meaning to preying upon, comes from the Latin praedari meaning to plunder, which is itself from "praeda," meaning booty.

"Predate" is from the Lating pre (before) + datum. The latter is the past participle of the verb do (dare, dedi, datum), meaning to give. This was used in the standard Roman style of dating letters with the formula data epistola Romae, "letter given at [i.e, delivered to] Rome."

References: Cassell's Latin Dictionary, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology

  • Thank you and +1 for taking the time to answer. Please see comment I wrote at end of nohat's answer. I wrote it there so as to also be able t ping Cerberus.
    – CodeMed
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:44

The word predation comes from the Latin prædatio meaning "taking of booty" which comes from præda meaning "booty". This is to say the word "predation" does not have the prefix præ- meaning "before".

Only predating comes from the Latin præ- meaning "before".

  • 2
    Actually, praeda comes from prae-hend-o (fun fact: -hend- is related to -gin in begin), so both words contain the prefix prae-. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 2:31
  • @Cerberus Your comment illustrates why I do not find these answers to be satisfying. I see prae-hend-o and prae-datum. I also see the concept of cyclical time that was prevalent in antiquity, so that there were primordial, metaphysical connotations to coming before. Things were swallowed up in attempts to get back to the origin, like a predator swallows prey. Virgil wrote the Aeneid to show that Octavius' consumption of all power in Rome was valid because he was re-manifesting Aeneis.
    – CodeMed
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:43
  • @Code: It is true that the Ancients, like the Humanists in some ways, entertained a cyclical view of history; but that was only one of several views that vied for dominance, depending on the genre, the period, etc. While both words ultimately contain the same prae-, the -dat- is entirely different in each word: they come from entirely unrelated roots (Proto-Indo-European ~*dʰe- in predating and *gʰ-n(e)-d- in predation). It is possible that prae- in praeda primed some connotation of anteriority to a Roman, but I have to say I doubt whether it was significant in context. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:27

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