early 15c., "a flowing back" (of the sea, etc.), "ebb tide," also figurative of instability, from Medieval Latin refluxus, from Latin re- "back, again" (see re-) + fluxus "a flowing," from fluere "to flow" (see fluent). Digestive sense is recorded from 1937; reflux-valve is attested by 1853.
Entries linking to reflux
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]
It forms all or part of: bale (n.) "large bundle or package of merchandise prepared for transportation;" baleen; ball (n.1) "round object, compact spherical body;" balloon; ballot; bawd; bold; bole; boll; bollocks; bollix; boulder; boulevard; bowl (n.) "round pot or cup;" bulk; bull (n.1) "bovine male animal;" bullock; bulwark; follicle; folly; fool; foosball; full (v.) "to tread or beat cloth to cleanse or thicken it;" ithyphallic; pall-mall; phallus.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek phyllon "leaf," phallos "swollen penis;" Latin flos "flower," florere "to blossom, flourish," folium "leaf;" Old Prussian balsinis "cushion;" Old Norse belgr "bag, bellows;" Old English bolla "pot, cup, bowl;" Old Irish bolgaim "I swell," blath "blossom, flower," bolach "pimple," bolg "bag;" Breton bolc'h "flax pod;" Serbian buljiti "to stare, be bug-eyed;" Serbo-Croatian blazina "pillow."
An extended form of the root, *bhelgh- "to swell," forms all or part of: bellows; belly; bilge; billow; bolster; budget; bulge; Excalibur; Firbolgs.
An extended form of the root, *bhleu- "to swell, well up, overflow," forms all or part of: affluent; bloat; confluence; effluent; effluvium; efflux; fluctuate; fluent; fluid; flume; fluor; fluorescence; fluoride; fluoro-; flush (v.1) "spurt, rush out suddenly, flow with force;" fluvial; flux; influence; influenza; influx; mellifluous; phloem; reflux; superfluous.