Votes and elections
With the UK general election coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d look at the origins of a few election-related words.
Vote comes from the Latin votum (a vow, wish, promise, dedication), which can be traced back to the PIE root *ewegwh- (to speak solemnly, vow). It first appeared in writing during the 15th century.
Election, which dates from the late 13th century, comes via the Anglo-Norman eleccioun (choice, between legal alternatives), from the Latin electionem, which is derived from eligere (to pick out, select).
Hustings comes from the Old Norse húsþing (council) from hus (house) plus þing (assembly). Hustings was first used to mean “a temporary platform for political speeches” during the early 18th century, and its meaning later expanded to include the whole election process.
The Alþingi or Althing is Iceland’s parliament and comes from the Old Norse al (all) plus þing. The name of the Isle of Man’s parliament, the Tynwald, comes from the Old Norse Þingvellir (assembly fields).
Parliament comes from the Old French parlement, which originally meant “speaking, talk,” from parler (to speak). The origins of parler can be traced back to the Late Latin parabolare (to speak (in parables)), from parabola (speech, discourse).
Candidate comes from the Latin candidatus (one aspiring to office), which originally meant “white-robed”, and is the past participle of candidare (to make white or bright). Office-seekers in ancient Rome traditionally wore white togas to symbolise their purity and worthiness for office. Every day togas were off-white or tan coloured.
The origins of candidare can be traced back to the PIE root *kand- (to glow, to shine) via the Latin candidum (white; pure; sincere, honest, upright) from candere (to shine). Other words that come from the same root include candle, candid, incandescent and incense.