5 “Re-” Words That Aren’t Repeats

By Mark Nichol

The prefix for denoting repetition is re-, but its presence in a word doesn’t necessarily indicate a repeat of an action. Here, as examples, are five words starting with re- that differ in sense from their root words.

1. Rebate: To bate is to deduct or restrain, but the word, used rarely, usually is employed for the latter meaning, often in the jocular phrase “await with bated breath,” to indicate feigned excitement. Bate is a truncation of abate, which refers to deducting, depriving, moderating, or putting an end to something. To rebate, however, is to return part of a payment as an incentive. Bate is from the Anglo-French word abatre, meaning “to strike down”; rebate is from rebatre, which derives from abatre but means “to deduct.”

2. Recapitulate: To capitulate is to acquiesce or surrender, but to recapitulate is to summarize. Capitulate is from the Latin word capitulum, which originally meant “to distinguish by heads or chapters” in reference to parts of a book (the Latin word for head, caput, is also the basis of chapter); by extension, it came to mean “to arrange conditions,” as part of a surrender. To recapitulate literally means “to restate by heads” — to repeat the main points.

3. Redress: To dress is to arrange or prepare, usually in the sense of putting clothes on or providing clothes to, though the word also refers to decorating or embellishing, or applying something. To redress, however, means to compensate or remedy, or, rarely, to avenge. Dress is from the Anglo-French term drescer, meaning “to direct” (it stems from the Latin word directus); redress is from redresser, which means “to set straight,” as in the sense of rearranging to make right.

4. Resound: To sound is to make a noise, or, when part of a comparative phrase (“sounds like,” “sounds as . . . as”), to resemble. To resound means “to reverberate” or “to repeat a noise,” though the word most commonly refers to a loud noise or is used as an intensifier to evoke the idea of someone receiving loud accolades (“a resounding success”). The Latin roots are sonare, meaning “to sound,” — the acronym sonar, from “sound navigation ranging,” was formed with this precursor in mind — and resonare (also the ancestor of resonate), meaning “to sound again.”

5. Reward: To ward is to deflect or guard (use rarely in verb form, usually in the phrase “ward off” to describe defending oneself from a blow). To reward is to pay for or to give in acknowledgment. Ward derives from the Old English term weard and the Anglo-French words warde and garde, all stemming from a proto-Germanic ancestor meaning “guard.” Reward stems from the Anglo-French terms regarder and rewarder, meaning “to care for, recompense.”

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1 Response to “5 “Re-” Words That Aren’t Repeats”

  • Lena

    Why is resound in this list when it means “to repeat a noise”?

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