• surmise •
Pronunciation: sêr-maiz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To suppose something true without evidence or with inconclusive evidence, to guess, to conjecture, to infer, to assume with little evidence.
Notes: Although this verb may take a limited number of nouns as a direct object, 'to surmise facts', it is far more likely to appear with a subordinate clause, e.g. 'to surmise that someone will be late'. It itself may be used as a count noun, 'unwarranted surmises', though we may use the present participle as well: 'wild surmisings'.
In Play: This verb refers to a sophisticated guess: "Herman surmised from her tense deportment that his wife had accompanied him to the football game only begrudgingly." The amount of evidence we can base surmises on is vague; we can be pretty sure of a surmise: "He immediately surmised that Wendy March was upset when she retorted, 'What do you care?!' to his greeting, 'How are you?'"
Word History: Surmise was copied and only slightly modified by English from Old French surmis "accused", the past participle of surmettre "to accuse", made up of sur- "upon" + mettre "put". French inherited this word from Late Latin supermittere "put over or after, add", from super "over" + mittere "send". Super was inherited from PIE (s)uper "over, above", with a Fickle S. Greek hyper "over, above" was the result of PIE [s] regularly becoming [h] before certain vowels in that language. The Germanic languages did without the initial [s], as English over and German über demonstrate. The past participle of mittere was missus, upon which the noun missio(n) "sending" was based. English, of course, borrowed this word as mission.