I was walking the dog in the yard, when my mind wandered to the etymological link between “V for Vendetta” and “The Avengers.”  I’m sorry to report there was no better anecdote to lead in to this solo night shift phenome brain storming.

  • V for vendetta
  • Avengers
  • Revenge of the nerds
  • Adventures in babysitting
  • Event horizon
  • Se7en

and I lost the movie theme and went for the word list

  • Vengeance
  • Revenge
  • Avenge
  • Vendetta
  • Vends
  • Vendor
  • Vent
  • Ventilation
  • Venerated
  • Venison
  • Oven
  • Vinegar
  • Vincible
  • Venial
  • Convenient
  • Convene
  • Convention
  • Convent
  • Coven
  • Covenant
  • Invent
  • Advent
  • Adventure
  • Prevention
  • Preventative
  • Event
  • Eventually
  • Even
  • Seven
  • Steven
  • Craven
  • Raven
  • Maven
  • Haven
  • Heaven
  • Cloven
  • Proven
  • Driven
  • Riven
  • Shaven
  • Venus
  • Venereal
  • Venom
  • Venomous
  • Venn diagram

So now let’s try and untangle some of this.  Revenge comes from old French revengier, where vengier means to take revenge and re is just used for emphasis.  Vengier comes from the latin vindicare which means “to lay claim, avenge, punish.”  This path obviously gives us avenge, vengeance and vendetta.

I thought of revenge as a noun… something you got as opposed to something you did.  Apparently revenge is also something you can do and that is the older of the 2 meanings.  A usage note on avenge vs revenge.  Revenge carries with it tones of retaliation and hatred, where as avenge has more of a feeling of justice and third party impartiality.

So the latin “vindicare” is more closely related to vindicate/vindictive (which my list missed) than to revenge.  Here we finally see that “vin” probably comes from “vim” which means force and “dict” means word.  Vindication used to have a meaning much closer to avenge, but has since seperated itself to mean something more along the lines of “be proven right.”  Where as “vindictive” is still basically synonymous with “vengeful.”

Vend” means to sell in latin as clearly as it does in english which gives us hotdog vendors and vending machines.

And “vent” is similarly straight forward in it’s meaning of wind in ventilation, as well as the metaphorical emotional venting.  My gut instinct says this is directly related to “invent” the way that “inspire” is related to breath, but they say it’s related to “venir” which means to come, as if ideas just come to you without any work… a fallacial point of view which came about since there’s a time delay to hide the causal link between the work of learning and the moment when an idea comes…

Here it starts to get convoluted.  Venerated means worshipped, and comes from the goddess Venus.  Venus gave us love potions which gave us poison which gave us Venom. (What’s the difference between venom and poison?  Venom is injected.)

Raven is just a word

Heaven comes from old english hoefon which means heaven.  Haven is norse for harbor.  It’s phonic similarity to heaven led to the use of it as a place of safety.

Maven is a word that I’ve only ever heard used as a “fashion maven” and had never gleaned it’s meaning.  A maven is an expert or a connoisseur.  It’s yiddish and totally unrelated to anything else on the list.

Cloven is the adjective form of Cleave.  Driven is the adjective form of drive. Shaven is…

Craven comes from crevante which means defeated.  Meaning drifted from defeated to cowardly.

Convene means to meet or assemble, and derives from Con (with) and Venir (to come).  This gives us “convention” as in a group of people meeting, and from the decisions of those people come conventions as is the standard ways of doing things.  Covenant is another word that comes from people meeting.  This also led Convent which didn’t pick up exclusively female connotations until the 18th century.

Coven is a derivative of Convent.  Originally synonyms after convent which from general to religious to relegious + female, then the witchy use of coven started to crop up in Scotland.  This meaning became enshrined in Sir Walter Scott’s “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft” (1830).

Advent is from Ad (toward) and Venir (to come) and means an important arrival… thus the advent calander to count down to Jesus’ arrival. Adventure uses the exact same etymology and evolved from “something about to happen” to “a chance occurance” through “risk/danger” to “a perilous undertaking” to “a novel/exciting incident.”

Venn diagrams (which are also euler circles) are named after John Venn (1834-1923).  The last name Venn is a place name derivative of the swampy lands in old english (the fenn).

Venison comes from Latin venatus “to hunt”


One thought on “inVENcability

  1. Pingback: Why do they call them Saltines? | Shadman The Wonderguy

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