Wiktionary asserts the etymon of reus as rēs. But how might have 'rēs' shifted semantically to mean 'reus'?

My conjecture: If I ignore the morality and subjectivity of something 'guilty', then one can consider something guilty as a thing, matter, or affair; but this conjecture is outstretching the Semantic Field of 'reus' and feels too feigned.

  • Res can specifically mean a court case or lawsuit, which would make the connection a natural one. That said, apparently there is not a consensus that reus dervies from res (de Vaan implies that Ernout-Meillet reject the connection).
    – TKR
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 22:53
  • 1
    Note that reus means accused rather than (or prior to) guilty.
    – Rafael
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


According to Ernout's Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue latine, reus properly means "he who is related to the res", with res meaning object (contended in this court case). Originally the word meant "the defender in a court case" or also "the accused one"; only later it came to the meaning of "guilty" (accused > suspected of being guilty > guilty) which is carried on by Romance languages.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.