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What is the history of the word "delete".

It's from Latin "deletus", but I wonder how and why this word was borrowed in English.

Usually, words directly borrowed in English are from religious, science, or law usage.

That's specially weird, as there doesn't seem to be descend words from "deletus" in French, Italian, etc...
Why only English? And Why English?

https://www.eupedia.com/europe/words_with_latin_roots_unique_english.shtml

To generalize, how most of those words came directly in English, and were forgotten by the Romance languages? Do they have something in common?

  • 3
    That doesn't seem about delete in particular. Plenty things came into English from Latin and Greek. – Kris Nov 14 at 9:49
  • The etymology is readily available in say the Online Etymology Dictionary. Why the line of descent didn't appear / continue in say French is not on-topic. It would be very much on-topic at Linguistics. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 14 at 10:17
  • "That doesn't seem about delete in particular. Plenty things came into English from Latin and Greek" Uh no, that's an exception. As said in my post. They are fields where the words are directly borrowed to Latin, it's not random. – Quidam Nov 14 at 14:26
  • "The etymology is readily available in say the Online Etymology Dictionary. Why the line of descent didn't appear / continue in say French is not on-topic. It would be very much on-topic at Linguistics." Yest, it's my question, I try it here, and I'll try it on linguistics if no luck with it. – Quidam Nov 14 at 14:26
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There's an etymology from Latin 'delere' to 'delir' in Old French and Occitan, which means 'to destroy'. So the assumption of only English inheriting this word is faulty. See for example Past Participles from Latin to Romance, page 225.

Of course, you could argue that no modern Romance language has this word. But there are etymological descendants, with associated meaning change. In Spanish, for example: desleir ('to dilute') has been derived from 'delere'; see Malkiel, Y. (1984). Ramon Menendez Pidal as Etymologist. Historiographia Linguistica, 11(1-2), 325–347. doi:10.1075/hl.11.1-2.15mal, page 340.

  • I have missed this "delir". Now, I realised I've missed "déliter" in Modern french, and its old French predecessor. Deleiter I think (I'll check). It completely answer the question. – Quidam Nov 14 at 14:28
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delete "destroy, eradicate," 1530s, from Latin deletus, past participle of delere "destroy, blot out, efface," from delevi, originally perfective tense of delinere "to daub, erase by smudging" (as of the wax on a writing table), from de "from, away" (see de-) + linere "to smear, wipe," from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (see slime (n.)). In English, specifically in reference to written matter from c. 1600. Related: Deleted; deleting.

This gives a clue as to why a latin word was used. 'Deleting' was something that people did with their writing, to erase words. In the 1530s in England, only scholars would have the ability to write, and Latin was generally the language of scholarship in England.

I can't imagine why the other languages forgot this word though.

3

The OED's earliest citation (which it admits may be questionable and isn't included in other etymologies that I've looked at) is from 1495 from a translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus's De proprietatibus rerum, a translation of a Latin text into English (they don't list the translator): "1495 Barth. De P.R. (W. de W.) iv. iii. 82 Drinesse dystroyeth bodyes that haue soules, so he dyssoluyth and delyteth the kynde naturall spyrytes that ben of mayst smoke.". Hence, if this is the source, it probably came directly from Latin into English.

Citations from the 1530s and 1540s are from the acts and declarations of Henry VIII, and therefore the origin of the word is harder to guess.

Source: "delete, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2019. Web. 14 November 2019.

No idea about other languages, and they're off topic here, but it's worth noting that French has an adjective délétère cognate with English "deleterious" attested as early as 1370.

  • They say that "délétère" is rather from Greek, δηλητήριος, dêlêtêrios (harzardous, harmful) – Quidam Nov 14 at 14:34

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