Printable Version
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.

Dr. Goodword,

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