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intimate (v.) [...] "suggest indirectly," 1530s, back-formation from intimation, or else from Late Latin intimatus, past participle of intimare. [...]

intimate (adj.) [...] 1630s, "closely acquainted, very familiar," from Late Latin intimatus, past participle of intimare "make known, announce, impress," from Latin intimus "inmost" (adj.), "close friend" (n.), superlative of in "in" (see in- (2)).

intimare = [...] II. Transf. [...] B. To announce, publish, make known, intimate

  1. What semantic notions underlie "suggest indirectly" to "closely acquainted, very familiar"? Please see the titled question.

    The former ("suggest indirectly") obviously connotes indirectness. In contrast, the latter connotes connoted bareness and forthrightness.

  2. The quote below also judges this semantic drift as a reversal in meaning. But I don't understand its last sentence: how might've '“intimate” exerted a moderating influence on the verb over time'?

Interestingly, “intimate” is also a verb, but it followed completely different route into English from that of “intimate” as a noun or adjective. (It’s also usually pronounced differently, with a long “a” in the third syllable.) While “to intimate” today means “to suggest indirectly or imply,” its source was the Latin “intimare,” meaning “to announce,”
and in English “to intimate” originally meant “to make known, notify formally, announce” or even “to declare” in the case of war. That’s quite a reversal for “to intimate.” It’s possible that the cuddly adjective “intimate” exerted a moderating influence on the verb over time, and “to intimate” became less about shouting things in public and more about slyly suggesting them in the privacy of one’s own parlor.

  • Your reference discusses intimate vs intimidate, your quotation explains that the noun intimate and the verb intimate "took a completely different route into English". Your quoted definition of intimate (v) says that it may have been either a back-formation of intimation or based directly on Latin intomatus. You seem to wish us to divine which it was (back-formation or not), about which your source (dictionary) was unwilling to hazard a guess. Not having been alive in 1530, I wouldn't hazard a guess either. Nor as to what "intimation" meant in 1530. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 31 '15 at 8:58
  • Why do you think that make known, announce, impress, intimate "connote forthrightness and brightness"? You claim that the Latin intimare means "to announce", and proceed to quote a source that offers "intimate" as one of the meanings of that Latin verb. As usual, you are inventing a straw man, postulating a "drift" where none exists. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 31 '15 at 9:14
  • @BrianHitchcock In answer to your second (irate?) comment: Observe that the last quote states: in English “to intimate” originally meant “to make known, notify formally, announce” or even “to declare” in the case of war. That’s quite a reversal for “to intimate. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Jul 31 '15 at 12:10
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    It's very common for the strength of words to increase or decrease over time, perhaps because it gets used as a euphemism for some other word. In this case, it seems like it weakened, from an announcement to just a suggestion. – Barmar Jul 31 '15 at 21:41

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