Middle English melten, from Old English meltan (intransitive) "become liquid through heat" (class III strong verb; past tense mealt, past participle molten), from Proto-Germanic *meltanan; fused with Old English gemæltan (Anglian), gemyltan (West Saxon) "make liquid, reduce from a solid to a fluid state by means of heat" (transitive), from Proto-Germanic *gamaltijan (source also of Old Norse melta "to digest").
Both Germanic words are from PIE *meldh- (source also of Sanskrit mrduh "soft, mild," Greek meldein "to melt, make liquid," Latin mollis "soft, mild"), from root *mel- (1) "soft." Also in Middle English "dissolve" (of salt, sugar, etc.), "corrode" (of iron), "putrefy" (of flesh). Meaning "pass imperceptibly from one thing into another" is by 1781. Related: Melted; melting.
Figurative use "to diminish, wane; be touched, grow tender" is by c. 1200; transitive sense of "soften" (to love, pity, tenderness) is by early 14c. Of food, to melt in (one's) mouth is from 1690s. Melting point "degree of temperature at which a solid body melts" is by 1807. Melting pot is from early 15c.; figurative use from 1855; popularized with reference to immigrant assimilation in the United States by the play "The Melting Pot" by Israel Zangwill (1908):
DAVID Yes, East and West, and North and South, the palm and the pine, the pole and the equator, the crescent and the cross—how the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame! Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God. Ah, Vera, What is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule."
It forms all or part of: abrogate; address; adroit; Alaric; alert; anorectic; anorexia; arrogant; arrogate; bishopric; correct; corvee; derecho; derogate; derogatory; Dietrich; direct; dress; eldritch; erect; ergo; Eric; Frederick; Henry; incorrigible; interregnum; interrogate; maharajah; Maratha; prerogative; prorogue; rack (n.1) "frame with bars;" rail (n.1) "horizontal bar passing from one post or support to another;" Raj; rajah; rake (n.1) "toothed tool for drawing or scraping things together;" rake (n.2) "debauchee; idle, dissolute person;" rakish; rank (adj.) "corrupt, loathsome, foul;" real (n.) "small Spanish silver coin;" realm; reck; reckless; reckon; rectangle; rectify; rectilinear; rectitude; recto; recto-; rector; rectum; regal; regent; regicide; regime; regimen; regiment; region; regular; regulate; Regulus; Reich; reign; resurgent; rex; rich; right; Risorgimento; rogation; royal; rule; sord; source; subrogate; subrogation; surge; surrogate; viceroy.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by:
Sanskrit raj- "a king, a leader," rjyati "he stretches himself," riag "torture" (by racking); Avestan razeyeiti "directs," raštva- "directed, arranged, straight;" Persian rahst "right, correct;" Latin regere "to rule, direct, lead, govern," rex (genitive regis) "king," rectus "right, correct;" Greek oregein "to reach, extend;" Old Irish ri, Gaelic righ "a king," Gaulish -rix "a king" (in personal names, such as Vircingetorix), Old Irish rigim "to stretch out;" Gothic reiks "a leader," raihts "straight, right;" Lithuanian raižytis "to stretch oneself;" Old English rice "kingdom," -ric "king," rice "rich, powerful," riht "correct;" Gothic raihts, Old High German recht, Old Swedish reht, Old Norse rettr "correct."
word-forming element meaning "back, back from, back to the original place;" also "again, anew, once more," also conveying the notion of "undoing" or "backward," etc. (see sense evolution below), c. 1200, from Old French re- and directly from Latin re- an inseparable prefix meaning "again; back; anew, against."
Watkins (2000) describes this as a "Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European *wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- "to turn." De Vaan says the "only acceptable etymology" for it is a 2004 explanation which reconstructs a root in PIE *ure "back."
In earliest Latin the prefix became red- before vowels and h-, a form preserved in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant, redintegrate, and, in disguise, render (v.). In some English words from French and Italian re- appears as ra- and the following consonant is often doubled (see rally (v.1)).
The many meanings in the notion of "back" give re- its broad sense-range: "a turning back; opposition; restoration to a former state; "transition to an opposite state." From the extended senses in "again," re- becomes "repetition of an action," and in this sense it is extremely common as a formative element in English, applicable to any verb. OED writes that it is "impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use," and adds that "The number of these is practically infinite ...."
Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is forgotten, lost in secondary senses, or weakened beyond recognition, so that it has no apparent semantic content (receive, recommend, recover, reduce, recreate, refer, religion, remain, request, require). There seem to have been more such words in Middle English than after, e.g. recomfort (v.) "to comfort, console; encourage;" recourse (n.) "a process, way, course." Recover in Middle English also could mean "obtain, win" (happiness, a kingdom, etc.) with no notion of getting something back, also "gain the upper hand, overcome; arrive at;" also consider the legal sense of recovery as "obtain (property) by judgment or legal proceedings."
And, due to sound changes and accent shifts, re- sometimes entirely loses its identity as a prefix (rebel, relic, remnant, restive, rest (n.2) "remainder," rally (v.1) "bring together"). In a few words it is reduced to r-, as in ransom (a doublet of redemption), rampart, etc.
Prefixed to a word beginning with e, re- is separated by a hyphen, as re-establish, re-estate, re-edify, etc. ; or else the second e has a dieresis over it: as, reëstablish, reëmbark, etc. The hyphen is also sometimes used to bring out emphatically the sense of repetition or iteration : as, sung and re-sung. The dieresis is not used over other vowels than e when re is prefixed : thus, reinforce, reunite, reabolish. [Century Dictionary, 1895]