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Q&A

How did prae + scribere semantically shift from meaning "write before" ⟶ "a title or right acquired through long use or uninterrupted possession"?

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I grok that prae- + scriberepraescribere literally meant write before. But what semantic notions underlie write before with a title or right acquired through long use or uninterrupted possession?

These notions contradict each other — because if you possessed writing before acquiring a title or right that authorized you to do so, you wouldn't need "long use or interrupted possession" to acquire that title or right!

prescription (n.)

late 14c., prescripcioun, in law, "a title or right acquired through long use or uninterrupted possession," from Old French prescription (13c.) and directly from Latin praescriptionem (nominative praescriptio) "a writing before, order, direction," noun of action from past participle stem of praescribere "write before, prefix in writing; ordain, determine in advance," from prae "before" (see pre-) + scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut").

Meaning "act of establishing by rules" is from 1540s. The medical sense of "written directions from a doctor of the medicines or remedies to be used by a patient and the manner of using them" is recorded by 1570s. The word has been confused with proscription at least since c. 1400.

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x-post https://www.reddit.com/r/latin/comments/tg26qw/how_did_prae_scribere_semantically_shift_from/ (1 comment)

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