One of my favorite Latin words is Tollere because it means both "to raise" as in to lift off the ground, as well as (more poetically) "to raze" or destroy/take away.

Are there any commentaries on how this word came to have seemingly disparate meanings?

  • All of the etymologies on the linked page are related to lifting / carrying, I'm particularly interested in where the "to destroy" came from.
    – Cthos
    Feb 27, 2016 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


It's actually amazingly simple.

To raise > to raise up from its place > to remove > to destroy by removing > to destroy

The visual metaphor here is astounding: imagine you want to topple a temple. What better way to do so than by uprooting from its foundations the columns upon which the temple depends? If you remove the columns, the temple is destroyed.

Auferre works on the same principle, though that shouldn't be surprising since the perfect principle parts of ferre is the old perfect principle parts of tollere (and why tollere has the sus- instead)!

  • 1
    Excellent. I had thought it would be something simple, but I have never been able to reconcile the visual metaphor. Unlike altus where it's both high and deep because it's conveying a meaure of "great vertical distance".
    – Cthos
    Feb 27, 2016 at 5:03
  • I watched San Andreas yesterday (for those of you not in the US or not familiar with pop culture, it was a terrible disaster movie that came out last year) and was reminded that buildings can often survive earthquakes that cause them to sway from side to side, but that when they get tossed 10 feet up in the air only to drop to earth again, they're basically toast. Feb 29, 2016 at 11:24

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