April 16, 2013

Case File #013.04.16: ADULTERY

Etymologically speaking, there is no adult in adultery. Derived from the Latin verb adulterare, meaning “to debase” or “to corrupt,” the English word adultery was coined circa 1415—back then it was spelled adulterie or sometimes adultrie—not to suggest anything about adults per se but to suggest that a sexual hookup with somebody other than one's spouse would irreparably corrupt one's marital union. Also a derivative of the Latin verb adulterare, the English verb adulterate (which retains the Latin's specific meaning) was coined about 150 years after the noun adultery, probably at about the same time the older word ended its union with ie and hooked up with y.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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