Obsessed With Ob- Words

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The other day, someone used a word that I hadn’t heard in a long time: obstreperous. I love the way that rolls off the tongue. It means noisy, unruly, belligerent, cantankerous – you get the picture. Obstreperous originates from the Latin prefix ob- (against) and strepere (to make a noise). A drunk being hustled out of a bar, while protesting loudly might be described as obstreperous.

Other meanings for the prefix ‘ob’ include contrary, against, towards or in the way of. It appears in several English words including:

  • obdurate (from the Latin durare – to harden) – inflexible
  • object (from the Latin iacere – to throw) – argue against
  • obligate (from the Latin ligare – to bind) – bind legally
  • obliterate (from the Latin litera – letter) – erase or destroy
  • obnoxious (from the Latin noxius – harmful) – offensive
  • obsession (from the Latin sidere – to besiege) – persistent preoccupation
  • obstacle (from the Latin stare – to stand still) – a barrier
  • obstinate (from the Latin struere- to stand) – stubborn
  • obstruct (from the Latin struere- to pile up) – impede

Variations of ob- include oc-, of-, op-, and o- in words such as:

  • occasion (from the Latin cadere – to fall) – opportunity
  • occlude(from the Latin claudere – to shut) – obstruct
  • occult (from the Latin culere – to cover) – shut off from view
  • occupy (from the Latin capere/cupare – to seize) – take possession of
  • occur (from the Latin currere – to run) – happen
  • offend (from the Latin fendere – to hit) – violate or cause pain
  • offer (from the Latin ferre – to carry) – present or make available
  • omit (from the Latin mittere – to send) – leave out
  • opponent (from the Latin ponere – to place) – adversary

More ob- words on Obnoxious Observations

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10 thoughts on “Obsessed With Ob- Words”

  1. Which brings to mind a few other “Ob” words:


    Not that I won’t vote for the man… although I most likely won’t vote for the man. But,who knows??

  2. Gee… why are baby doctors “obstetricians”? Does that make them against babies? 🙂

    I love the word “obtuse…” it’s a nice way of saying something about some people or situations.

  3. Apparently it’s because an obstetrician ‘stands across’ from the woman who is delivering, Meryl. The Latin root is stare, to stand, which has also given rise to the proofreading term ‘stet’ – let it stand, used when you have corrected something and realised the original should be left as is.

  4. A musician friend of mine had a t-shirt made that said “Basso Obstinato” which, for him, was more appropriate than “basso ostinato” (a repeated bass line).

  5. ‘Basso’ also means short in Italian.

    So to any Italians, basso ostinato would not only mean a repeated bassline, but a someone who is short and obstinate! Nice.

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