Words related to ransom
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]
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to take, distribute."
It forms all or part of: assume; consume; emption; example; exemplar; exemplary; exemplify; exempt; exemption; impromptu; peremptory; pre-emption; premium; presume; presumption; prompt; pronto; ransom; redeem; redemption; resume; sample; sejm; subsume; sumptuary; sumptuous; vintage.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit yamati "holds, subdues;" Latin emere "buy," originally "take," sumere "to take, obtain, buy;" Old Church Slavonic imo "to take;" Lithuanian imu, imti "to take."
For the sense shift from "take" to "buy" in the Latin verbs, compare Old English sellan "to give," source of Modern English sell "to give in exchange for money;" Hebrew laqah "he bought," originally "he took;" and colloquial English I'll take it for "I'll buy it."
mid-14c., redemcioun, "deliverance from sin," from Old French redemcion (12c.) and directly from Latin redemptionem (nominative redemptio) "a buying back or off, a releasing, a ransoming" (also "bribery"), noun of action from past-participle stem of redimere "to redeem, buy back," from red- "back" (see re-) + emere "to take, buy, gain, procure" (from PIE root *em- "to take, distribute").
The -d- is from the Old Latin habit of using red- as the form of re- before vowels, as also preserved in redact, redolent, redundant. The general sense of "release, repurchase, deliverance" is from late 15c. Commercial sense is from late 15c. Year of Redemption as "Anno Domini" is from 1510s. In the Mercian hymns, Latin redemptionem is glossed by Old English alesnisse.
"rarely, not often, infrequently," late Old English and early Middle English seldum, an alteration of seldan "infrequently, rarely," from Proto-Germanic *selda- "strange, rare" (source also of Old Norse sjaldan, Old Frisian selden, Dutch zelden, Old High German seltan, German selten), a word of uncertain etymology. Perhaps ultimately from the base of self (q.v.).
The form shifted apparently on analogy of adverbial dative plurals in -um (as in whilom "at one time," from Old English hwilum, from the source of while). The same development also created litlum from little, miclum from mickle. Also compare random, ransom. The forms in -n decreased from 14c. and faded out in 16c.
Old English seldan had comparative seldor, superlative seldost; in early Middle English, as seldan changed form and lost its connection with these, selde was back-formed as a positive. Shakespeare uses seld-shown "rarely exhibited." Some compounds using the old form survived through Middle English, such as selcouth "rarely or little-known, unusual, strange, wonderful," from Old English selcuð, seld-cuð, from seldan + cuð (see couth).
German seltsam "strange, odd," Dutch zeldzaam are cognates of seldom, but with the second element conformed to their cognates of -some. Related: Seldomness.
Seldom-times "rarely, hardly ever" is from mid-15c. (earlier was seld-when, Old English seldhwanne "rarely," which lasted until 16c.). Seldom-seen "rarely encountered" is from mid-15c.; older was seld-seen (Middle English seld-sen, from Old English seldsiene), which lasted long enough to appear in Marlowe (seildsene, 1590s).
1650s, "having no definite aim or purpose, haphazard, not sent in a special direction," from phrase at random (1560s), "at great speed" (thus, "carelessly, haphazardly"), from an alteration of the Middle English noun randon, randoun "impetuosity; speed" (c. 1300). This is from Old French randon "rush, disorder, force, impetuosity," from randir "to run fast," from Frankish *rant "a running" or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *randa (source also of Old High German rennen "to run," Old English rinnan "to flow, to run;" see run (v.)). For spelling shift of -n to -m, compare seldom, ransom.
In 1980s U.S. college student slang it began to acquire a sense of "inferior, undesirable." (A 1980 William Safire column describes it as a college slang noun meaning "person who does not belong on our dormitory floor.") Random access in reference to computer memory that need not be read sequentially is recorded from 1953. Related: Randomly; randomness.