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While the accepted answer to the question What does the term 'divers places' mean? states that:

Divers is an archaic spelling of diverse

I disagree. The words are not interchangeable. I have encountered divers in dated texts and find that it is less common today and its focus is on several, various, whereas diverse is the word we normally use to mean different in kind.

My question is what made these two words that both originate from the Latin diversus, be pronounced so differently:

What dictated the change of the stress from the first syllable to the second?

PS: I am also puzzled by the /z/ heard in divers, which I consistently hear pronounced as /s/ in religious contexts, but maybe it is a collective mistake of a specific environment?

5
  • Divers - late 13c., "separate, distinct; various;" late 14c., "different in kind or character" (the sense now in diverse). (Etymonline) - The sense of "several, sundry, more than one but not a great number" emerged by c. 1400, referring "originally and in form to the variety of objects; but, as variety implies number, becoming an indefinite numeral word expressing multiplicity" [OED].
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 10:16
  • @user66974 Yes, while researching I discovered that some dictionaries speak about diverse as having a more specific meaning which is more general in divers.
    – fev
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 10:18
  • 2
    As for pronunciation, it may have been influenced by analogy with other “similar” terms: diverse- In Middle English it also could mean "disagreeable, unkind, hostile" (mid-14c.). The differentiation in spelling (perhaps by analogy with converse, traverse, etc.) and meaning prevailed after c. 1700.
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 10:21
  • To the user who voted to close this question: @Greybeard 's answer explains how the difference in pronunciation came to occur, which just proves this is not a matter of opinion. Hence I do not understand the reason for the downvote and for closing.
    – fev
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 11:30
  • A riddle I once found in an old book - Q : Why does a duck go into the water? A : For divers reasons. Q : Why does a duck come out of the water? A : For sun-dry reasons. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 13:14

1 Answer 1

5

You ask for the etymology:

From OED:

Divers

Brit. /ˈdʌɪvəz/, /ˈdʌɪvəːz/, /ˈdaɪvərz/

Etymology: Middle English divers , diverse , < Old French diviers, divers, feminine -erse (11th cent. in Littré) different, odd, wicked, cruel, = Italian diverso , Spanish diverso , Portuguese diverso < Latin diversus contrary, different, unlike, separate, originally ‘turned different ways’, past participle of dīvertĕre to divert v.

The spelling was in Middle English indifferently divers and diverse . The stress was originally as in Old French on the last syllable, but in conformity with English habits, was at a very early date shifted to the first, though, as with other words from French, both pronunciations long co-existed, especially in verse. After ˈdivers became the established prose form, especially in sense 31, in which the word is always plural, the final s came, as in plural nouns, to be pronounced as z, and the word to be identical in pronunciation with the plural of diver.

1. Various, sundry, several; more than one, some number of. Referring originally and in form to the variety of objects; but, as variety implies number, becoming an indefinite numeral word expressing multiplicity, without committing the speaker to ‘many’ or ‘few’.

Diverse:

diverse, adj.

Pronunciation: /dɪˈvəːs/, /dʌɪˈvəːs/, /ˈdʌɪvəs/

Etymology: In origin identical with divers adj.; but in later use probably more immediately associated with Latin dīversus (compare adverse, inverse, obverse, perverse, reverse). Hence, no longer (since c1700) used in the merely vague numerical sense of divers, but always distinctly associated with diversity.

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