A discussion of word histories and origins.
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Postby Audiendus » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:00 pm

imbue, imbrue

How closely are these two words (with similar meanings) etymologically related? They are apparently both connected to the Latin verb bibere (to drink), but do they have any closer connection than that?

I was unfamiliar with "imbrue" until I found it on the list of Good Words just now (I thought it was an error for "imbue", which I was going to suggest as a Good Word). According to Google Ngram Viewer, it is obsolescent.

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Dr. Goodword
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Re: Imbue/imbrue

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:28 pm

You're right. The Oxford English dictionary lists the sense "to dirty" as obsolete, but not the sense of "to stain", though the latest examples of it they offer is from 1848. AHD does not call is obsolete and other dictionaries treat it differently, though many of them list it. offers at least 100 examples (where I left off reviewing), the latest of which are Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ambrose Bierce. I usually make a note of a GW's usage status. I notice you say "obsolescent" = "becoming obsolete".

I do sometimes make frail attempts to rescue what I perceive to be useful, beautiful, funny, or interesting words from the clutches of time. I will make a note of the usage in the archive.

They derive from two different Latin words: imbuere "to moisten, stain" and embevrer "give to drink, make drunk". However, there is speculation that both come from the same PIE source poi- "to drink", but that leaves open the question, "Whence the R?" But since the original meaning of imbrue was "dirty, soiled", some have speculated that it arose from Old French embrue "soiled", which seems to have arisen from boue "mud, dirt", an explanation which leaves open the same question.

Thanks for the heads-up.

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