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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) an outcome or effect; (v.) to ensue, to follow as a consequence

Mathematical equations, origins of the word result

We love etymologies that make everyday words more interesting here at Haggard Hawks, and today a prime example of precisely that turned up in the form of the word result.

Etymologically, result literally means ‘jump back’. So how? And why?

Well, result arrived in English from Latin in the early fifteenth century, as the result (no pun intended) of a long line of etymological developments. Its immediate ancestor was the Latin equivalent verb resultare, which as well as meaning simply ‘to result from’ or ‘to occur as a consequence’ could also be used in this original, etymologically literal sense to mean ‘to jump’, or ‘to spring forward’. In that sense, resultare itself derived from an earlier Latin verb, resiliere, meaning ‘to rebound’ or ‘recoil’—and in turn, resiliere had at its root the Latin word salire, meaning ‘leap’ or ‘jump’. Follow that family tree from one ancestor to the next, and you’ll end up with a result.

What makes this etymological tale all the more interesting is the number of similar words that, through that long pedigree, the word result is connected to. Latin salire, for instance, is also the origin of the ‘–sault’ at the end of somersault (while the ‘somer–’ bit is a French corruption of the Latin supra, meaning ‘over’). Sautéd vegetables are literally ‘leaped’ or ‘bounced’ while cooking. A salient point was originally the earliest point in the development of an embryo when movement or a heartbeat can be discerned. If you assail someone, or sally forth then you’re also using words derived from this root. And something that is salacious probably also has its roots in salire, perhaps originally in the sense of leaping and bounding male animals driven to wild behaviour in mating season.

Resilience is the modern-day descendent of the Latin resiliere we encountered above, while the ‘–sult’ of result also crops up in etymological cousins like exult, desultory, assault and insult (all of which essentially literally mean ‘to leap upon’).


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