Meaning "cause a device to return to a former condition" is from 1847; the intransitive sense of "return to an initial state" is from 1897. Of broken limbs, by 1884. As a noun, "act of resetting; that which is reset," from 1847.
An older verb reset in English meant "harbor or shelter an outlaw or criminal" (c. 1300), especially in Scottish legal language. It is unrelated, from Old French receter, from Latin receptare, frequentative of recipere "to hold, contain" (see receive).
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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]
Old English settan (transitive) "cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly; build, found; appoint, assign," from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satejanan "to cause to sit, set" (source also of Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, a variant of root *sed- (1) "to sit." Also see set (n.2).
The intransitive sense from c. 1200, "be seated." The word was used in many disparate senses by Middle English; sense of "make or cause to do, act, or be; start" and that of "mount a gemstone" attested by mid-13c. Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc., "to go down," recorded from c. 1300, perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages. To set (something) on "incite to attack" (c. 1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game.
c. 1300, receiven, "take into one's possession, accept possession of," also in reference to the sacrament, from Old North French receivre (Old French recoivre) "seize, take hold of, pick up; welcome, accept," from Latin recipere "regain, take back, bring back, carry back, recover; take to oneself, take in, admit," from re- "back," though the exact sense here is obscure (see re-) + -cipere, combining form of capere "to take" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp").
From c. 1300 as "welcome (in a specified manner)." From early 14c. as "catch in the manner of a receptacle." From mid-14c. as "obtain as one's reward." From late 14c. as "accept as authoritative or true;" also late 14c. as "have a blow or wound inflicted." Radio and (later) television sense is attested from 1908. Related: Received; receiving. Receiving line is by 1933.
Other obsolete English verbs from the same Latin word in different forms included recept "to receive, take in" (early 15c., recepten, from Old French recepter, variant of receter and Latin receptus). Also compare receipt, which also had a verb form in Middle English, receiten.
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