Deference(n.) - Showing respect or giving up your will

Deference(n.) - Showing respect or giving up your will


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Deference

Noun
Submitting or yielding your decision making to the whims of another. Usually as a sign of respect or reverence.

History & Etymology

The root word in deference is defer which means to delay till later or to ask for approval, and to show someone difference originally meant you were setting your will aside and submitting to theirs. To some extent this is still inherent in the word deference.

Like most words in the English language, and many other European languages, the word defer has its roots in a language we call Proto-Indo-European(PIE). This is a theoretical language that has been reconstructed by comparing words from languages in the India and Europe. A lot of what I do on this channel is follow the path the particular word from PIE into the modern language we speak today. Some words follow a direct path through the Germanic family of languages and right in to English.

Defer followed a different path. It still has its origins in PIE, but it’s a word that comes from the Romance languages descended from the language spoken in Ancient Rome, that language was Latin.

The ancestor Latin ancestor of deference was deferre. A compound of the prefix de- meaning “down or away” and ferre which comes from a PIE word bher- which meant “to carry”. The PIE wor bher- is the origin of many words in English and many other languages. At the time deferre simply meant to carry away.

As the common form of Latin spoken in the area of France changed into French the suffix -ence was added creating a word that denoted the state of being carried away or carrying away. This new word was déférence, and referred to the action of offering or bestowing something upon another person. Literally to carry something to someone.

As the word began to be used in English it was also used to describe yielding to someone. This usage has fallen out of common usage, and modern dictionary definition talk about honor, esteem, and respect for a person.

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