Words in the “Struct” Family

By Mark Nichol

The Latin source of the element struct, the basis of structure and other words pertaining to literal and figurative building and unbuilding, is also the root of a couple of unexpected words.

The root word in common is struere, meaning “arrange,” “build,” or “pile.” Words based on structure, which functions both as a noun meaning “building” or “something constructed” and as a verb meaning “build” or “organize,” include the adjectives structural and structured, the adverb structurally, and the noun structuralism, which pertains to several distinct methods or movements in anthropology, linguistics, and psychology. (The rare noun structuration pertains more pragmatically to the interrelationship of components.) From the latter word comes the forms structuralist, structuralization, structuralize, structuralized, and structuralistically.

Words consisting of a prefix attached to struct and the element -ion include construction and its antonym destruction, as well as instruction and obstruction. The qualitative adjectival forms for these words replace -ion with -ive (instruction also has a quantitative adjectival form ending in -al), and the adverbial forms append -ly. Noun forms pertaining to the quality of the construction, destruction, instruction, or obstruction attach -ness to the adjectival form.

Alone among the four terms, destruction has an irregular verb: destroy (from the Old French verb destruire). One who destroys is a destroyer, but that word typically refers not to a person but to a thing—a particular type of warship, originally called a torpedo boat destroyer. (There is also a type called a destroyer escort, designed to protect other vessels against submarines.) The verb destruct was introduced by back-formation a few hundred years ago but has died out except in rocketry (referring to deliberate destruction of a malfunctioning launched rocket) and in the related terms auto-destruct and self-destruct, which are synonyms. Construct, instruct, and obstruct are the verb forms for the other words.

The capacity of something to be constructed, destroyed, or instructed is described with constructability (and its adjectival form constructable) and so on, although the spelling of destruct’s appendages are -ible and -ibility; obstruct did not acquire these forms with either spelling. (In addition, of the four nouns and adjectives, only those based on destruct have antonyms formed by adding the prefix in-.)

The noun form instructor is common, but the equivalents for the other three words are rare. The suffixes -ist and -ism, meanwhile, can be applied to construction and the equivalent nouns to refer to various philosophies.

In computer technology, the terms macroinstruction and microinstruction refer to multiple or single instructions for coding; the former term is abbreviated to macro, but micro does not seem to have been adopted to apply to the latter term.

Two words whose kinship with the struct family is not immediately apparent are construe (from the Latin term construere, meaning “relate grammatically”), which means “make clear” or “interpret,” and misconstrue, which means “misunderstand” and is therefore not an antonym. Construable describes something that can be construed, and construal is the act of construing something. (Misconstrue has equivalent forms.)

A term with an even more effective disguise is industry, which in its Latin form, indostruus, means “diligent” but now usually pertains to labor applied to the creation of products or to classes of businesses (such as the motion picture industry) with products in common. The adjectives industrial and industrious differ in that the former, in the sense of “manufacturing,” is neutral and the latter refers, in the sense of “diligence,” to the quality of industry. Either form takes the adverbial ending -ly, but only the latter is the basis of a noun ending in -ness.

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5 Responses to “Words in the “Struct” Family”

  • Dale A. Wood

    Replace “We I wrote…” with “When I wrote…”
    I don’t want it to be set in “stoen”.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Just sayin’.” means that you do not really believe what you wrote or spoke. It completely negates it all.
    We I wrote “an extreme stretch of the word ‘industry’,” I really meant it (and mean it) to the depths of my innards!
    We have already seen many cases of words that have been stretched and stretched so far beyond their innate meaning that they have lost all of their meanings.
    “Socialism” and “socialist” are two of them.
    A long time ago, these implied “I am my brother’s keeper.” (and sister’s, and transsexual’s, and crossdresser’s!)

  • venqax

    I don’t think the term “industry” is so value laden in its connotation. To say it “pertains to labor applied to the creation of products or to classes of businesses with products in common”, is, I think, pretty accurate. I would even go so far as to say it’s now relatively synonymous with “business” and could be applied to all the relevant components of a process, including services. Just sayin’.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I am one who still considers this to be an extreme stretch of the word “industry”: “pertains to labor applied to the creation of products or to classes of businesses (such as the motion picture industry) with products in common.”
    Not so. Real industries still produce tangible things that form the foundations of our civilization, like these: {iron and steel industry, nonferrous metals industry, railroad industry, shipbuilding industry, construction industry, car and truck industry, electrical and electronics industries, chemicals industry, computer industry, pharmaceutical industry, aerospace industry, defense industry, food-processing industry, clean water industry, telecommunications industry, sanitation industry,…}
    WE still need nutritious food, clean water, clean air, housing, transportation, education, electric power, and useful chemicals A LOT MORE than we need entertainment, poetry, and music.
    Then there is the worst abuse of the word “industry” of all: “the Adult Entertainment Industry”, a.k.a. the porno business.
    By the way, I think that “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is a great flick, but still I would rather have air, food, water, shelter, transportation, medicine, and telecommunications.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “One who destroys is a destroyer, but that word typically refers not to a person but to a thing…”
    After J. Robert Oppenheimer witnessed the first test of an atomic bomb (in New Mexico in July 1945), he quoted from ancient Hindi religious texts, but he said the words in English, of course, so that the people around him could understand. Shiva: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
    This can also be translated as “I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.” Dr. Oppenheimer knew that he had seen a new weapon that was powerful enough not only to end the War in the Pacific, but also in sufficient numbers could destroy the whole world’s civilization.
    Oppenheimer had learned how to read and write Sanskrit, and he had studied texts like the Bhagavad Gita. He had done this mostly while he was a graduate student at the Univ. of Gottingen, Germany. , and he needed something to do besides studying nuclear physics all the time.

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