I have been looking in OED for a history that makes sense, yet, I just find crumbs, and I can not piece the history of this term. I am hitting a dead end researching the greek term to censor, named λογοκρίνω

According to Oxford English Dictionary the word censure, n., is first documented in use in

  1. Wyclif Sel. Wks. III. 361 Censures þat þe fend blowiþ, as ben suspendingis, enterditingis, cursingis, and reisingis of croiserie. Back then it was defined as ‘A spiritual punishment inflicted by some ecclesiastical judge.’ Ayliffe. (The earliest recorded sense.)

A Roman censor, formerly just called a censor was The title of two magistrates in ancient Rome, who drew up the register or census of the citizens, etc., and had the supervision of public morals.

In the same entry as censure, definition 5 explores, the concept further.

  1. Censorship; the office or action of a censor.

    a. Of the ancient Roman censors (= Latin censūra): also concrete (obsolete).


See Screenshots of the OED entries for all the details, and referenced material.

Entry for censor

entry for censure n.

Additional context - http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0063:entry=censor-cn

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    Can you clarify exactly where the problem is? Is it in understanding how the Latin word (borrowed from Greek) changed its meaning when borrowed into English? Or is it how the Latin word 'censor' came from the Greek 'λογοκρίνω' or where the pieces of 'λογοκρίνω' came from within or before Greek? Or something else?
    – Mitch
    Apr 23, 2019 at 19:24
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    @Mitch I’m at confused as you are! Λογοκρίνω is actually not related to censor at all. It’s the Modern Greek verb meaning ‘censor’, and it’s quite transparently compounded from λόγο- ‘word(s)’ and κρίνω ‘judge, assess, sift through, decide’, so it means to pass judgment on someone’s words, which is exactly what censorship is. I cannot see how λογοκρίνω has anything to do with this question at all, nor what the question is actually about. Apparently the etymology of Lat. cēnseō was deemed an adequate answer, but I have no idea why… 🤷🏽‍♂️ Apr 29, 2019 at 14:37
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    I think the question is most likely "What is the etymology of censure and censure and their cognates in Latin?" Which I think is on topic. But the way the question is worded, with its mixed up quotes, and lack of connection with the Greek makes this a difficult question to answer. If the accepted answer was sufficient to the OP then great, but it is surely very confusing
    – Mitch
    Apr 29, 2019 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


I have found an etymological account that carries the Latin verb censeo (a probable root of censor and related terms) back to Proto Indo-European. Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages by Michiel de Vaan includes the following entry:

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Rather than going to Greek, de Vaan goes to the Proto-Italic *knse-; the star denotes that it is a reconstruction based on comparative evidence from related languages, like Faliscan and Oscan. Wiktionary presents some of the other cognates and hypothesized roots in an easily readable format here.


censor etymonline

1530s, "Roman magistrate of 5c. B.C.E. who took censuses; sense of "officious judge of morals and conduct" in English is from 1590s. From 1640s as "official empowered to examine books, plays (later films, etc.) to see they are free of anything immoral or heretical." By the early decades of the 19c. the meaning of the English word had concentrated into "state agent charged with suppression of speech or published matter deemed politically subversive

Initially the simple taking of a census, the term began to imply the 'morality police' in English in ~1600, and has remained so since.

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