Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahg-nayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. Having a common ancestor, belonging to the same larger family, as cousins are cognate, and English name is cognate of Latin nomen, both descended from PIE no-men-. 2. Related or analogous in nature, quality or function, as chemistry is cognate of physics. 3. (Scottish law). A relative on the mother's side, the antonym of agnate, related to the father's side.

Notes: Be careful: this word is often confused with synonym, words that are semantically identical. Cognate works as well as a noun as an adjective: "English name is a cognate of Latin nomen." The abstract noun for this countable noun is cognation, not to be confused with cognition. Today's Good Word has nothing to do with cognac, excepting only that its author enjoys the occasional dram.

In Play: The Word History section of the Good Words is all about cognation: "Saxon is cognate with the words for 'stranger' in most Celtic languages, while the word for 'Welsh' means 'foreigner' in old Saxon." In nonlinguistic use, this word may refer to almost any other relationship held together by a single feature: "The news media are a set of cognate information services, including radio, television, newspapers, and magazines."

Word History: Today's word comes to us from Latin cognatus "of common descent", comprising com- "(together) with" + gnatus "born", past participle of gnasci, and older form of nasci "to be born". The gn in the older word is a reduced form of the PIE word gen- "give birth, beget, generate". The past participle of the newer form of this word is natus, the ultimate origin of the English borrowing native, (pre)natal, and natural. It can be seen in a multitude of English Latinate borrowings, including genius, generate, genuine, and genocide. English also inherited this word via its Germanic ancestors, as kin, king, and kind "type, species". (Now let's thank Jeremy Busch and William Hupy, cognate participants in the Alpha Agora, for recommending this Good Word many long months ago.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!