My Latin teacher’s favorite Latin word is patior, pati, passus sum – these are the three principle parts of the verb “to suffer”. The present active participle is patiens/patientis, from which we get the English word “patience.” From the perfect passive participle passus, we get our word “passion”. I thought I knew a lot about this word, but Anthony Esolen taught me more in his Word of the Week column (link) on Substack. He does some good history of our word “passion” and how its meaning has shifted over the centuries, but this is the wow moment for me:
The ancient Indo-European root that gives us Latin passus, suffered, shows up in only a few of the great limbs of the tree. In Germanic, it gave us the Anglo Saxon feogan, to hate, and its participle which turned into a noun, feond, the hating one: an enemy; and that ended up denoting man’s greatest enemy of all, the fiend, the Devil. So the irony is this: the great fiend desired no other than that man should suffer and be alienated from God, but Christ by suffering defeated the enemy that imposed the suffering, as he would glut the mouth of death with death itself. And therefore let us always remember that our trouble is seldom that we feel too much, but rather that we feel too little. And may the Lord enlarge our hearts and direct our passions to the good and the true.
I’m only a novice at learning the relationship between different families of proto-IndoEuropean (or PIE in linguistic circles). I was low-level aware that the “p” and “f” sounds are frequently related – as in, over time they can shift into each other as languages differentiate, but it never would have occurred to me that this root “pei-” in PIE (“to harm”) yields both “passion” and “fiend” in English. So cool. Yet it makes sense, too. Language is cool.