July 9, 2013

Case File #013.07.09: DEFECATE

The Latin word defaecatus is the past participle of defaecare, which means “to purify” or “to clear of dregs.” As you may have already guessed, defaecatus is also the source of the English defecate, and when the verb first appeared in the English lexicon around 1575, it meant “to cleanse of impurities.” Believe it or not, it wasn't until the late nineteenth century that the word came to be associated with the voiding of fecal matter, and even then, such usage was pretty much confined to the United States for about twenty-five years or so. Today, though, defecate is a poopy verb throughout the English-speaking world.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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