Why does the word "research" sound like one is "re-searching" if it is meant to product original findings? Surely it is just searching?

What is the etymology of the word research? Thinking about it, it doesn't make much sense to me. Its unlike other "re" words, for example:

  • Revise - to visualise again
  • Redo - to do again
  • Reform - to form again
  • Retract - to follow a tract again?
  • Regain - to gain again

Clearly research seems a bit out of place with its definition.


The prefix re- has many connotations (innumerable according to OED); the most common are those which refer to "again, once more" and that which refers to an intensive ( that is a linguistic element that provides force or emphasis) as in the case of research:


  • word-forming element meaning "back to the original place; again, anew, once more," also with a sense of "undoing," c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- "again, back, anew, against," "Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European *wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- "to turn" [Watkins].

  • Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is lost in secondary senses or weakened beyond recognition.

  • OED writes that it is "impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use," and adds that "The number of these is practically infinite ...." The Latin prefix became red- before vowels and h-, as in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant.


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