Words That Follow “Sequi”

By Mark Nichol

The Latin verb sequi, meaning “follow,” is the source of a diverse array of words pertaining to “going after” in one way or another. This post lists and defines the term’s descendants.

Sequel, originally meaning “retinue” and later coming to mean “result,” came from a Latin term meaning “that which follows.” The dominant modern sense, that of “a continuation of a story,” is nearly as old; prequel is a recent coinage created on the model of sequel to refer to a story that predates a related tale in an overarching narrative but was created first.

Sequence originally denoted liturgical verses that followed others; later, the word came to mean “series” or “continuity or order of events,” as well as “result.” The prevailing adjectival form is sequential, though sequent also exists.

Consequent is the adjective form of consequence, which literally means “follows with” and refers to a result (often, an unfortunate one); the adverbial form is consequently. (Consequence also means “importance,” as in “a man of some consequence,” from the idea of something significant having multiple consequences.) Subsequent (“follows closely”), with the same transformations to other parts of speech, is generally more neutral in connotation and pertains more to chronology than to outcome.

Segue, originally an instruction, meaning “now follows,” in a musical score, came to mean “smooth transition” and usually refers to such an event in communication or the media, as when someone effortlessly changes the subject of a conversation by bringing up a related topic, or when one filmed scene shifts to another with little or no disruption.

The adjective obsequious refers to someone who is overly attentive so as to gain favor; a sequacious person lacks independent or original thought. (The latter term is much more rare than the former.) The noun forms are, respectively, obsequiousness and sequaciousness (or sequacity); adverbs are formed by adding -ly to the respective adjectives.

Sequitur, adopted directly from Latin, means “consequence”; it is used rarely, though it appears in the common term “non sequitur,” describing something that does not logically follow from what occurred or was said before. Sequester originally meant “mediate” and later come to mean “place in safekeeping” and then “isolate.” (Sequestration is a legal procedure or a chemical process.)

Persecute and prosecute both mean “follow,” but persecution is persistent harassment or punishment, whereas prosecution is performance or pursuit as a duty, especially as in the context of bringing legal action or instituting legal proceedings, though originally the former term had a legal sense as well. Pursue (the noun form is pursuit) is descended from prosecute—not persecute—by way of French and originally referred to following someone with antagonistic intent; it still means “chase,” but often refers simply to following an inclination, as in “He intends to pursue a medical degree.” One who pursues is a pursuer; pursuant is a rare variant that also serves as an adjective, usually in legislative documents.

An associated word that may not be immediately apparent as such is, regardless, right there in pursuit: suit. The sense of “a set of clothing” for suit derives from the matching uniforms of a suite, or retinue; suite, by extension, came to also mean a set of things in general, especially a grouping of rooms or a series of musical compositions. The legal sense of suit (often referred to as a lawsuit) shares the “set” sense from the notion of being part of a retinue attending (following) one’s lord at court; courtiers would present a suit to obtain consideration from their superior.

A suitor, therefore, is a party in a suit, or a petitioner, or one who seeks to take over a business or who courts a woman. To sue is to carry out a suit or to plead; the word is obsolete as a synonym for woo. (The name Sue, an abbreviation of Susan, ultimately from Hebrew and meaning “lily,” is unrelated.) Ensue originally meant “follow” or “seek”; it retains only the former sense.

Two other words whose derivation from sequi may not be apparent are sect, which pertains to a group within a religion with distinctive beliefs or observances, and execute, which means “follow up,” though it also developed the sense of “carry out capital punishment” from a legal sense of “passing judgment.” Sequin, a word for a small, shiny ornament often used on clothing, is unrelated; it derives ultimately from an Arabic term pertaining to minting currency, from the resemblance of a sequin to a gold coin.

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5 Responses to “Words That Follow “Sequi””

  • venqax

    “…prequel is a recent coinage created on the model of sequel to refer to a story that predates a related tale in an overarching narrative but was created first.” Wouldn’t it be “…but was created later”?

  • venqax

    And the difference between sequi, senqui, and sasqua, as in Sasquatch. The last does not mean “atch that follows” or “one and a half atches”. Probably. Though it could, I guess.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Sequestration” is also a physical process.
    In the USA and in the former USSR, there has been a huge problem, for many decades, about where and how to carry out the permanent sequestration of radioactive waste products. Those products are mostly the consequence of the deliberate and massive production of plutonium in nuclear reactors.
    This has been a problem of smaller size in China, France, the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, et cetera. How to handle the incidental production of plutonium in power reactors has been a problem for Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, etc.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Sequestration is a legal procedure or a chemical process”.
    Digital information can also be sequestered somewhere in the memory of a computer or a computer network. This is information to be kept secret or confidential from all but authorized users.
    One way of sequestering information is to encrypt it. (For example, to sequester one’s credit card number.)
    Other ways of sequestering information is though the use of secret passwords, fingerprints, retinal scans, etc.
    This process can be reiterated. For example, a secret password can be encrypted, and then that information can be placed where nobody but authorized people know where it is!
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    The difference between “sequi” and “sesqui” needs to be explained.
    “Sesqui” is seen in such words as “sesquicentennial”.

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