adj.. clear; having the property that light passes through it almost undisturbed

Transparent is a common word; I’ve known it since I was a child. Slightly less well known is “translucent,” which has largely the same meaning, although the latter usually indicates a lesser degree of transparency.

With a bit of familiarity with Latin roots, its easy to see what these two words have in common: trans indicates “across” or “over,” which leads to such modern English words as “transmit”, “transport”, “transaction”, “transcontinental” and others. But what about the second part of each word: could that tell us how they are different?

The suffix “lucent” comes from the Latin lucere (“to shine”); literally, then “translucent” effectively means “to allow light to shine through/across”. The various forms of the Latin luceo can be seen in words such as “lantern” (weakly), as the modern “light” (→ L. lux → PIE *leuk-).

The parens suffix of “transparent” comes from another Latin root, appareo, which means “to become visible” or “to appear”. We can see its influence in such words as “appear” (a direct lineage of appareo) as well as “apparition”. Also, if you’re wondering, our modern English “parent” does come from this same root. The pareo root can also mean “I submit” or “I am obedient to”, which led to the verb parere (to breed or bring forth), and you can probably guess the rest from there. In fact, the PIE root *per-, which means “to bring forth”, is really applicable in all the words here. In the context of your progenitors, they brought you forth from their loins; in the context of transparent materials, they allow light to come forth in a manner of speaking.

§4977 · March 10, 2010 · Tags: , , ·

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