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Are the words elision and ellipsis related etymologically? For some reason Wiktionary hints at no despite the two words' appearances.

I know there meanings have kind of become conflated in the modern day, but I'm not sure if they are proto-Indo-European 'cognates'. Can someone confirm? This is all I've got:

I've tried to make a little chart to show my process how I analyzed the words. Please bear with me.

[PIE] "*leykʷ-" → [Anc. Greek] "λείπω" (leípō) → through prefixing, "ἐλλείπω" (elleípō) → through suffixing with "-σις" (-sis), "ἔλλειψῐς" (élleipsis) → [English] "ellipsis", "ellipse" → "elliptic", "elliptical"...

[PIE] (according to wiktionary, unknown) → [Proto-Italic] (according to wiktionary, unknown) → [Latin] "laedō, laedere, laesī, laesum" → through prefixing, "ēlīdō, ēlīdere, ēlīsī, ēlīsum" → through suffixing, "elisiō, elisiōnem" → [English] "ellision"

[Latin] "ēlīdō, ēlīdere, ēlīsī, ēlīsum" → [English] "elide"

This little chart here could go more in depth, but I'm keeping it simple.

Apparently the Latin word is a cognate with Ancient Greek's "λείπω" and that stems from "*leykʷ-" is Latin "linquō" (not included in the mini 'chart' I created), and it is the base word for words like "relinquō", "dēlinquō", which are where the words relinquish or delinquent come from in English's case.

How could these two words not be related at all given their meanings and the fact that their appearance in their old forms are the really similar (compare leípō with laedō)? Or is there something I'm missing? Can /p/ not turn into /d/ like this...? This maybe be the reason why actually but I really don't know. Somebody who knows of these topics, please enlighten me.

Source: Wiktionary

It was difficult to get some info, like λείπω because the routing pages were red --- unaccessible, leading to nowhere.

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    Note that it's "elision" (one "L"), not "*ellision".
    – psmears
    Feb 2 at 15:20
  • wups, my bad. thanks for the correction Feb 2 at 15:25
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    Some things are really just a coincidence. You can check Etymonline.com, the OED, Lewis & Short's Latin dictionary, etc, if you don't believe Wiktionary, but they'll all give the same answer. /p/ wouldn't normally turn into /d/ because they're articulated at different places (lips vs alveolar ridge), although places of articulation do sometimes move. (I don't know if this is more a question for Linguistics SE.)
    – Stuart F
    Feb 2 at 15:31
  • They are closer to opposites, as elision merges together and ellipsis shows a skipping over. I see elision from elide from slide. Feb 2 at 16:50
  • @YosefBaskin But they both have to do with omission, no? Feb 2 at 17:45

1 Answer 1

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Greek λείπω (leípō) means "to leave". It is prefixed with ek-, meaning "out". The suffix -sis indicates that the verb is turned into a noun whose meaning is a process or action, cf. stasis "a standing → that which is stood", dosis "a giving → that which is given". The meaning of process or action often changes into the result of the process or action, cf. English winning is fun "the process of winning", but also winnings "things that have been won". So ἔκλειψις (ekleipsis) "abandonment", which led to the alternative form ἔλλειψις (elleipsis) via assimilation of k into succeeding l. When transcribed into Latin letters, Greek ει (ei) is often written as i, whence at last English ellipsis. That is why about language it means "a leaving-out → that which is left out".

Latin laedo means "to hit, damage". It is prefixed with e(x)- "out, away", which is indeed related to Greek ek. In Latin compound (prefixed) verbs, many vowels turn into i, such as the ae here. That is why elido means "to force out, strike out". Verbal nouns are usually made from the supine stem of a verb, which is made by adding -t-. In Latin, I believe this -dt- normally results in -s-, so supine stem elidt- makes for elis-. Then the suffix -io(n) is added to turn a verb into a noun of action. So elisio "a striking-out → that which is struck out", whence English elision.

As you can see, the Latin verb laedo "hit, damage" (from which also English collision) has little in common with Greek λείπω (leípō) "leave" with respect to its meaning. The result of both elision and ellipsis may be that something disappears, but the conceptual metaphor present in the etymologies is very different: in ellipsis, something disappears because you have moved on and left it behind on the way; in elision, something disappears because you have struck it and caused it to break off.

The only etymological conexion is indeed in the prefix e/ek. But the consonants d and p have nothing in common and cannot normally change into each other in neither Latin or Greek; they are both plosives, but p is labial and unvoiced, while d is dental and voiced. And the vowel sounds (e)i and ae in the roots also do not normally change into each other in Latin or Greek without some special circumstance.

To put it bluntly, just one identical vowel with one identical consonant between two modern words is rarely reason enough to expect relatedness in etymology.

And what is even more important is that the meanings of the modern words are very much unimportant when considering their ultimate relatedness: the only thing that would matter is whether their meanings were related long ago, when one language (Latin) could have possibly borrowed it from the other (2500 years ago), or when the language that was the ancestor of both was spoken, Proto-Indo-European (6500 to 4500 years ago).

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  • Very sorry for the late reply, but I thank you for the in-depth response! Mar 4 at 4:05
  • @languagelover3000: Hey thanks, let me know if you need more info to answer your question. Mar 8 at 5:19

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