Monday, November 22, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: LEX

Today's word is the noun LEX (genitive singular, lēgis - feminine). Etymologically, the word is possibly related to the verb ligare, "to bind," which makes sense, given that laws are binding! Consider, for example, this saying: Ex aequo lex alligat omnes. For other possible etymologies of the Latin word, see the comments to this post at the Dennis McHenry's Campus blog.

As you can see from the genitive form, the root of the word lex is lēg- with a long ē. Compare for example the verbs legere and lēgare. The verb legere (with a short e) means "to gather, collect," etc. The verb lēgare, on the other hand, has the same root as lex, and it means "to send as an ambassador or deputy" or "to bequeath as a legacy."

The English words derived from this Latin word are innumerable: "legal," "legislature," "legitimate," "legacy," etc. Via French, we even get "loyalty," via Old French loial from Latin legalis. One thing that is tricky, though, is that there are also English words derived from the Latin verb legere, which can lead to some confusion as to just which Latin word you might be dealing with! So, for example, the English word "privilege" is from the Latin lēg- root (a law for just one person), while the English word "sacrilege" is from the leg- root (someone who gathers up and steals sacred things).

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below, as well as additional proverbs:

Habet et bellum suas leges.

A Deo rex, a rege lex.

Novus rex, nova lex.

Rex est lex.

Legem non habentes, ipsi sibi sunt lex.

Plus legibus arma valent.

Quid leges sine moribus?

Ibi valet populus, ubi valent leges.

Rex est lex vivens.

Legis manus longa.

Amor legem non habet.

Ex malis moribus fiunt bonae leges.

Aurum lex sequitur.

Lumen Dei, lex diei.

Dura lex, sed lex.

Durum est, sed ita lex scripta est.

Patere legem, quam ipse tuleris.

Cedant arma legibus.

Arma nesciunt leges.

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