Where does the word "replenish" come from, and what does it mean? I know it is used as a form of "refill", but is that how it was originally?

  • Did you have a question about 'plenum'? It's in the title, but not the question body. – Brendan Berg Aug 11 '10 at 15:19
  • Not here, maybe in another question. – Arlen Beiler Aug 11 '10 at 16:07

It means (according to my trusty New Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary):

  1. to make full or complete again
  2. to supply with fresh fuel
  3. to fill again or anew
  4. (intransitively) to become full or complete again

According to another dictionary (the one built-in in Mac OS X), the origin of the word can be traced to Old French (and further to Latin, of course), as follows:

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [supply abundantly] ): from Old French repleniss-, lengthened stem of replenir, from re- ‘again’ (also expressing intensive force) + plenir ‘fill’ (from Latin plenus ‘full’ ).

Based on that, I don't think it has had other meanings in English earlier. As to why should one use this word instead of the less fancy refill – I have no idea, except perhaps to show off & try to sound educated.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Webster's 1828 dictionary gives this definition:

In the transitive form:

REPLEN'ISH, verb transitive [L. re and plenus, full.] :

  1. To fill; to stock with numbers or abundance.
    The magazines are replenished with corn.
    The springs are replenished with water.
    Multiply and replenish the earth. Gen 1.

In the intransitive form:

REPLEN'ISH, verb intransitive: To recover former fullness.

Another answer gives this:

... "replenish" is of French/Latin origin and "fill" is of Anglo-Saxon/Germanic origin. Interestingly, roll the clock back a couple thousand years and they should be the same word. Germanic languages tended to turn P into F, so the ancestor of both words was probably "pell" or "pill".

In short:

If it is a transitive verb ("Replenish the bin.") it means fill, if intransitive ("It will replenish", it means refill.

As reported from the NOAD:

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [supply abundantly]): from Old French repleniss-, lengthened stem of replenir, from re- 'again' (also expressing intensive force) + plenir 'fill' (from Latin plenus 'full').

Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary

transitive verb

  1. a : to fill with persons or animals : STOCK b archaic : to supply fully : PERFECT c : to fill with inspiration or power : NOURISH
  2. a : to fill or build up again b : to make good : REPLACE intransitive verb : to become full : fill up again

Jonik is right, "replenish" is of French/Latin origin and "fill" is of Anglo-Saxon/Germanic origin. Interestingly, roll the clock back a couple thousand years and they should be the same word. Germanic languages tended to turn P into F, so the ancestor of both words was probably "pell" or "pill".

  • Anyone know latin? Is the word in there? – Arlen Beiler Aug 14 '10 at 14:09
  • I once thought that plenish was a word and that re-plenish meant refill, and that plen meant full. – Arlen Beiler Aug 14 '10 at 14:15
  • In French after you replenir something it's plein – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Sep 24 '10 at 13:18
  • Ah, so I was right! Just hasn't gotten to English yet. ;) – Arlen Beiler May 21 '11 at 21:37

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