One would assume these both have the same origin - though I'm quite prepared to be corrected...

...but how did we get from 'emerge' - to come out of, to leave...
to 'emergency' with the blue lights, sirens & all that implies?

The snail emerges from his shell - not a hint of any hurry ;)

  • 1
    When something suddenly "comes up", it emerges, does it not? The implication of urgency is a different matter altogether, but emergency really refers to that which has suddenly appeared and taken precedence, i.e. "something's come up" = "emergency"
    – psosuna
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:07
  • 1
    On a somewhat general note, you need to watch out for etymological fallacies. It's called a fallacy for a reason. How did we get from "man" to "woman"? How did we get from "gate" meaning "door" to "gate" meaning "scandal"? The answer is that we don't have to get from anywhere to anywhere. No word has any meaning at all other than the one we give it. If we agree that "to emerge" means "to eat cheese for breakfast", and "emergency" means "orange cat", then that is what these words mean. There is no other reason, and there needs be none, other than "because we say so".
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 26, 2018 at 12:15

2 Answers 2


Yes, you are correct, emergency derives from emerge, but in the sense of “rise out/up” from which the idea of something that “emerge” requiring attention.

Emergency :

  • unforeseen occurrence requiring immediate attention," 1630s, from Latin emergens, present participle of emergere "to rise out or up" (see emerge). Or from emerge + -ency.


OED (sense 4a):

(a) (The ordinary modern use.) A juncture that arises or ‘turns up’; esp. a state of things unexpectedly arising, and urgently demanding immediate action.


It can be helpful to think of such words not as a parent and child (i.e. "emergency" as derived from "emerge") but as siblings (i.e. "emergency" and "emerge" as two derivatives from Latin "emergo").

"Emergency" comes from the present participle of "emergo," "emergens." In Latin, the present participle signifies contemporaneous action or action-in-progress. So an "emergency" is that which is in the process of coming up--it's the grammatical inflection, not just the meaning of "come up," that adds that sense of urgency.

"Emerge," by contrast, is pretty much a straight borrowing--it keeps the basic semantics of the Latin verb more-or-less intact, making it a more neutral term that can refer to "coming up/out" physically or metaphorically.

  • Point taken. Anything to suggest by way of further reading? Thanks.
    – Kris
    Jul 26, 2018 at 7:47

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