For no reason whatsoever of course, the word abequitate popped up on HH earlier this week, defined as “to ride away on a horse”. And for no reason whatsoever of course, we’re going to make it this week’s Word of the Week.
No prizes for guessing that at the centre of this is the Latin word for “horse”, equus, which is likewise found at the root of a clutch of more familiar words like equine and equestrianism. In abequitate, equus has been rejigged alongside the Latin-origin prefix ab–, which is used to form words bearing some sense of “off” or “away from”.
So to abdicate is to renounce a claim to the throne (derived from dicare, a Latin word meaning “proclaim”). Something that is aberrant is different or separate from the norm (and derives from the Latin for “to wander off”). In aborigine, ab– appears alongside the Latin origo, meaning “beginning” (and so the word literally describes one who has inhabited a region since time immemorial). And so in abequitate, we have a word literally meaning “to ride off”.
This isn’t the only specific horse-riding term in the dictionary, incidentally. As well as abequitate, “to ride off”, there’s adequitate, “to ride beside someone”; interequitate, “to ride into or between something or somewhere”; obequitate, which simply means “to ride about”; and coequitate, “to ride alongside another”. All of these words date back to around the seventeenth century in English, and many of them made their debuts in the language the lexicographer Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionarie.
Oh—I hope you don’t think HH posting this word had anything to do with Roy Moore turning up to vote on horseback, and then refusing to concede when he was defeated by Doug Jones? No, no. Pure coincidence, of course. The very idea...