Etymology
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rape (v.)

late 14c., rapen, "seize prey; abduct, take and carry off by force," from rape (n.) and from Anglo-French raper (Old French rapir) "to seize, abduct," a legal term, probably from Latin rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct" (see rapid). Also figuring in alliterative or rhyming phrases, such as rape and renne (late 14c.) "seize and plunder."

The older senses of the English word became obsolete. The surviving meaning "to abduct (a woman), ravish;" also "seduce (a man)" is clearly by early 15c. in English, but it might have been at least part of the sense in earlier uses.

Meaning "to rob, strip, plunder" (a place) is from 1721, a partial revival of the old sense. Uncertain connection to Low German and Dutch rapen in the same sense. In Middle English, and occasionally after, the verb was used in figurative senses of Latin rapere, such as "transport in ecstasy, carry off to heaven," usually in past-participle rapte, which tends to blend with rapt. Related: Raped; raping.

Classical Latin rapere was used for "sexually violate," but only rarely; the usual Latin word being stuprare "to defile, ravish, violate," which is related to stuprum (n.) "illicit sexual intercourse," literally "disgrace," stupere "to be stunned, stupefied" (see stupid). Latin raptus, past participle of rapere, used as a noun meant "a seizure, plundering, abduction," but in Medieval Latin also "forcible violation." 

rape (n.1)

early 14c., "booty, prey;" mid-14c., "forceful seizure, act of snatching by force; plundering, robbery, extortion," from Anglo-French rap, rape, and directly from Latin rapere "seize" (see rape (v.)). Meaning "act of abducting a woman or sexually violating her or both" is from early 15c. Late 13c. in Anglo-Latin (rapum).

rape (n.2)

kind of cruciferous plant (Brassica napus), late 14c., from Old French rape and directly from Latin rapa, rapum "turnip," which is cognate with Greek hrapys "rape," Old Church Slavonic repa, Lithuanian ropė, Middle Dutch roeve, Old High German ruoba, German Rübe "rape, turnip," perhaps a common borrowing from a non-IE word (de Vaan).

Widely grown as fodder for cattle and sheep, an oil made from it is used in cooking (see canola). Rape-oil is attested by 1540s; rapeseed by 1570s.

There has been much confusion between rape and coleseed, either plant being known under both names; the former is sometimes called winter rape and the latter summer rape. The older writers usually distinguish the turnip and rape by the adjectives round and long(-rooted) respectively. [OED]

updated on July 27, 2022

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