What is the meaning of the symbol ≪ in word origin description in dictionary.com?

e.g. in https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-ule

< French < Latin -ulus, -ula, -ulum diminutive formative with nouns of the 1st and 2nd declensions ≪ *-el- (cf. -cle1, -elle, -ole1); the deverbal suffix -ulus, etc. (cf. cingulum, tumulus) is of distinct orig.

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Is this symbol common among many dictionaries?

  • I’m voting to close this question because it is about the in-house symbolism of an arbitrary work. Nov 8, 2020 at 16:52
  • 1
    It's not super common but rather trivial. I might've come up with it myself and have seen it in informal forum posts too, once or twice, that is "<<". It's obviously from deleting an unreliable intermediate reconstruction. The arrow notation is discuraged in running text anyways, Ihear. On second thought, I think I seen it in etymological dictionaries' lists of symbols, too, but can't remember where. This question belongs on linguistics.SE
    – vectory
    Nov 8, 2020 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


<< means that one or more links in the etymological chain are supposed but are unattested.


x < y means that x is believed to come from y immediately.

x << y means that x is believed to come from y though not immediately, that is, one or more words mediate between x and y but that word or those words have not been identified.

x (<?) < y means that that x is believed to come from y though it is not known whether it does so immediately OR one or more words mediate between x and y.

  • 1
    Good! Do you have any reference about this? I can not find it in the website.
    – Willy
    Nov 8, 2020 at 5:09

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