Is the Wiktionary entry on fissiparous below correct? Why's the analogy "mistaken"? The compounding makes sense to me?


An adaptation of the New Latin fissiparus, from fissus (“split”, “cleft”) + pariō (“I bring forth”) by mistaken analogy with vīviparus.


Viviparus comes from vivus ("alive") and parere ("to give birth"), and it makes sense that it means something that gives birth to living offspring.

As Wiktionary tells, fissus means "split". Therefore fissiparus should refer to something that gives birth to split offspring. The word fissiparus or the English variant appears to mean something that has a tendency to split. The component fissi- makes sense, but -parus does not. No giving birth is involved.

Perhaps the -parus of viviparus was analyzed as "related", and then "related to being alive" was converted to "related to splitting". But this analogy is indeed mistaken, as -parus has a much more specific meaning than just "related".

An obvious follow-up question presents itself: What would then be a good Latin word with a meaning suitable for what fissiparus is used for? I suggest taking that to a separate question if you are interested.

| improve this answer | |
  • There is some analogy here with “iatrogenic disease”, which literally means “disease that gives rise to doctors”. It seems that scientific English is equally happy when the noun (or adjective) in the compound is the subject or the object of the verb. – Martin Kochanski Jul 7 '19 at 17:48
  • I would tend to thing that the mistake in the analogy lies not so much in the choice of -parous, since fissiparous does in fact have to do with birth/reproduction ('producing new individuals by fission,' according to my dictionary); rather, it lies in the fact that in the word viviparous, the first root has a direct object relationship with the second, whereas in fissiparous, it stands in the relationship of instrument/means. As you note, though, to be a proper analogy with viviparous, fissiparous should mean 'producing split offspring.' – cnread Jul 8 '19 at 20:38
  • Which is not to say that fissiparous is, per se, an improper word formation. Having the first root in a compound express the instrument/means of the second, verbal root, is perfectly valid and common. It's just that, as a word that's supposed to have been formed by analogy with viviparous, it doesn't quite work. – cnread Jul 8 '19 at 20:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.