May 23, 2013

Case File #013.05.23: QUASH

When you quash something, you generally crush it in a figurative manner rather than a physical one. But as the pedigree of the word quash reveals, it was once the other way around. The original form of this English verb was quaschen (sometimes spelled quashen or quassen), and when it first came into use sometime during the thirteenth century, it meant “to smash.” It was derived from the Old French quasser, meaning “to break” or “to damage,” which evolved from the Latin verb quassare, meaning “to shake apart” or “to shatter.” Furthermore, the Latin quassare is itself a variation on the older Latin verb cassare, which means “to make empty” or “to destroy.” So quash is clearly the progeny of a long line of vandals and wreckers, and it wasn't until around 1380 that it finally veered a bit from the familial path and took on its current and less violent sense of “to void, extinguish, or suppress.”

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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