Printable Version
Pronunciation: -pêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. A pair, duo, two related items of the same class or category. 2. A very small indefinite number.

Notes: Marriage is what we think of when English-speakers hear couple, so just as marriage means "getting hitched", the verbalization of couple means "to hitch, join together". We find several derivational relatives: couply "couple-like", coupler "someone or something that couples things", and coupledom "state of being (in) a couple".

In Play: Any two things that are paired form a couple: "Herman and Hermione were a dance couple to which all eyes were drawn when they took to the floor." As for the verbal usage, any two things capable of conjoining may be coupled: "Herman found that at his company, promotions weren't coupled with raises."

Word History: Today's Good word was borrowed from Old French cople (noun) and copler (verb), passed down from Latin copula and copulare, comprising co(m)- "(together) with + apere "to fasten, join, attach". The English word copulate was based on the past participle of the verb, and copula is an exact copy of the noun. Latin apere was inherited from PIE ap- "to take, grab, reach", which pops up in Greek aptein "to fasten". Latin flowered into many Romance languages: French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, but Greek only developed into Modern Greek. So, we find a variety of descendants from Latin but none from Greek. Little to no evidence of this PIE word is found in other Indo-European families. (Now let's welcome Bob Scala, a newcomer to our happy band of contributors, and thank him for today's suggestive Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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