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Q&A

How does taking, buying, procuring (emō) semantically appertain to destruction, annihilation (perimō)?

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As you can read below, emō meant to take, buy, gain, procure. But perimō meant to destroy and annihilate. Plainly, their meanings differ! So why was perimō formed from emō and compounded with per-? How does emō semantically appertain to perimō's meanings?

peremptory [16]

Peremptory comes via Anglo- Norman peremptorie from Latin peremptōrius. This meant ‘destructive’, and was derived from perimere ‘take away completely’, a compound verb formed from the prefix per- ‘completely’ and emere ‘obtain’ (source of English example, exempt, prompt, etc). By extension it was used for ‘taking away all possibility of debate’, and hence ‘decisive’.

Word Origins (2005 2e) by John Ayto. p 373 Left column.

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Oxford Latin Dictionary (2012 2 ed), p 665.

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Oxford Latin Dictionary (2012 2 ed), p 1478.

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I admit I'm unschooled at Googling! Only after I wrote this post, did I stumble on Draconis's answer on Latin SE.

While emō normally means "buy", the ancestral meaning seems to have been something like "take". Compare the Proto-Slavic cognate *ę-ti "take, acquire", or the distant Latin relative pōmus "fruit" (the first part is cognate with Greek apo: fruit is "something taken off/away from" the tree). And indeed, this is the meaning we see in most prefixed forms: adimō "deprive", dēmō "remove".

So the original meaning of perimō seems to have been something like "take away thoroughly and completely"—that is, "cause to vanish". And indeed, in Classical times this still seems to be its most common meaning: Cicero in De Divinatione, for example, describes how the full moon was subitō perempta est (i.e. eclipsed). But from there, "cause to vanish" poetically meaning "kill, destroy" is an easy step.

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