I noticed that in Turkish "number" (sayı) and "counting" (saymak) come from the same root (say-). In English and other European languages number comes from Latin "numerus" and counting from "computare" (com + putare).

As I understand from this answer ıt would have been possible to turn numerus into a verb. I'm sure they knew that they counted with numbers, so why didn't they use numerus as a root for counting as well? Any comments on this?

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    In a better world (where the Normans never invaded England), we might today say tale and tell ... Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Assuming by "they" you mean the Romans who spoke Latin, they did in fact turn numerus into a verb: numero, numerare.

nŭmĕro , āvi, ātum, 1, v. a. numerus,
I. to count, reckon, number (syn. recenseo).
I. Lit.: "si singulos numeremus in singulas (civitates)," Cic. Rep. 3, 4, 7: ea, si ex reis numeres, innumerabilia sunt;

In English, we also borrowed a prefixed form directly with enumerate, from enumerare.

ē-nŭmĕro , āvi, ātum, 1, v. a.,
I.to reckon up, count over, count out (class.).
I. In gen.: “jamne enumerasti id, quod ad te rediturum putes?” Ter. Ad. 2, 2, 28: dies, * Caes. B. C. 3, 105, 2: “peculium,” i. e. to rate, estimate, Plaut. As. 2, 4, 91: “pretium,” to count out, to pay, Cic. Rosc. Am. 46, 133. —

French, too, has énumérer.

Regardless of the facts, the question shows a misunderstanding of how languages work. There is zero reason for a language to form a verb from a particular noun. Just because Turkish and Latin can do this, doesn't mean they have to. It makes no sense to ask "why" a language does or doesn't do something, as they answer is always plainly "just because." You could turn the question on its head and ask "Why does Turkish not have a separate word for counting that doesn't derive from number?" There's no logical reason for any given way. Words are because simply and only because people use them in that way.

  • “ You could turn the question on its head and ask "Why does Turkish not have a separate word for counting that doesn't derive from number?"” This observation turn out to be relevant. In the book I’m translating, I encountered “enumerate” several times and there is no single word for it in Turkish. I assume enumerate is not a synonym for counting.
    – zeynel
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 15:18
  • At some point, this might cross over into English's territory, but essentially the prefix e- alters the meaning here. The word enumerate means "to count out a list of some things." Count, by the way, also has this meaning, such as in Barrett Browning's sonnet 43: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." She doesn't actually mention any numbers in that poem, but instead lists various ways in which the speaker loves the addressee. Enumerate usually (but not always) has a more formal connotation, though, such as creating a numbered list or a list used for some technical purpose.
    – cmw
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 17:18
  • Math is specialist knowledge, always introduced by trade or by teaching the next barabarian tribe of conquestors by the enslaved group of mathematicians. This scheme is comparable to melting mothers language of the conquested people with the mens vocabulary of the barbarian fathers. Enumerate, count and compute are three completely different areas of the use of numerical symbols, that, for the Greeks and Romans, all were normal characters. The Normans of Sicily were the first Europeans to switch from greek and latin characters to arabic ciphers, learning from all the three key cultures.
    – Roland F
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 10:37

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