- n. An addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one.
Codicil is known mostly as a legal term (for which see the official definition), but in practice is has come to refer figuratively to any addition or addendum, often with a quasi-scholarly connotation. Its use in English dates from the 15th century, when it came into the language from the French codicille and Latin codicillus , which referred to a short writing or small tablet (used for writing). It’s no surprise that the word’s origin is French/Latinate, since most of our legal terms come from that very source. Because French and Latin was, for a long time, the preferred language of the scholars and the judicial system after the Norman Conquest, our common words from that vocabulary Latinate almost to a one.
Codicil is a diminutive form of codex, which was Latin for both “tree trunk” and “book”, and which also gave rise to the more familiar code, initially in the form of a code of law or code of ethics, but which now refers to everything from the cheat code in Contra1 to the source code that I write at work.
Similar but distinct from a codicil is a corollary, which is not so much an addendum as it is a peripheral consequence of something. The official definition per Wiktionary is “Something which occurs a fortiori, as a result of another effort without significant additional effort.” From the Latin corōllārium, it originally referred to a gratuity, and was in fact ultimately from another diminutive form, this time of the Latin corona , or “crown”, and which is memorialized both in the terrible Mexican beer2 and the glowing rim of hot matter that surrounds stars. On the day this entry was written, in fact, the Earth was hit with a “coronal mass ejection”.
Though spelled similarly and with somewhat similar meanings, “ancillary” (“subordinate” or “auxiliary”) is not connected to corollary. It’s from the Latin ancillāris, from a word meaning “maid.” Ultimately, it derives from the well-known Proto-Indo-European root *kwol-o-, which means “move round, turn about, be much about”, and which is, appropriately, the origin of our word “cycle”.
When coming up with synonyms and related words for this week, it was difficult not to notice the surfeit of app- and add- roots. Consider appendix, which is English as well as Latin, and comes from appendō in the latter: ad (“on” or “against”) and pendō (“I hang”). Append is essentially the same word, except that it uses the suffix -ix, which is a common Latin suffix used in feminine agent nouns. It can also be found in words like cicatrix (“scar”, of unknown origin) and dominatrix, though generally speaking the feminine -ix suffix has been replaced with -[tr]ess suffix in English, and so words like actrix became “actress” (perhaps mediated by the French actrice).
But what of -add? Our word “add” (as in adding 2 + 2) is from the Latin addere, which means “to add”. Our addendum is a pure absorption of a Latin declension of that word, maintains roughly the same meaning: something that has or will be added [to something else].
As we’ve seen before in cases where it seemed to modern ears though words would be related, a combination of shared common structure, coincidence, and occasionally common ancestors lead to the pool of similar-ish words in today’s Word.