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Ave, as in Ave Caesar, has the meaning of "hail".

Yet, according to Wiktionary, it is also the "second-person singular present imperative of aveō".

Now, aveō is a verb which means either "I desire", "I long for", etc. or "I am well" or "fare well".

Is there any historical connection between these two forms? Perhaps the "hail" meaning comes from some vulgar Latin form?

For example, in Spanish, Ave Caesar would be Viva Cesar, where viva comes from the Latin vivus, which means "to live" and whose vocative case is viva. So in Spanish it seems to be a direct connection between the expression and the verb, since Viva Cesar is basically saying "long life to Caesar". Hence my question about whether a similar relation exists for the Latin word ave.

PS: As I am just beginning to study Latin, let me know if Wiktionary is not the best or most complete source and please suggest others.

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    See this: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/2360/…
    – fdb
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:39
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    For people too busy to click through, fdb's point is that some argue that (h)ave is a Carthaginian loanword and a false cognate of aveo.
    – lly
    Jul 7, 2018 at 10:58

2 Answers 2

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Ave meaning 'hail' is the imperative of aveo, as you mention; when you hail someone you are instructing them to fare well (normally we would say you are wishing them to fare well), in much the same way that in English we can use 'farewell' to say goodbye. 'Hail' works the same way, except that the meaning 'be healthy' is very outdated now.

Consequently, if addressing multiple people you would say avete.

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The greeting (h)ave is not related to the verb aveō 'to desire', and any dictionary that puts it under aveō 'to fare well' is reconstructing an unattested and etymologically nonsensical lemma. It's a loan from Punic *ḥawe, a 2sg. imperative meaning 'live!', which was popularised and probably introduced to Latin by Plautus' comedy Poenulus. The Latin word vacillated between writing the h and not, but it seems to have been consistently pronounced until h in general was lost. Plautus also used a plural avo from Punic *ḥawū, but that never caught on.

At a later stage ave was reanalysed as a Latin imperative, but only to introduce the analogical future imperative avētō, which was popular with e.g. Cicero; no other forms are consistently attested. Outside of grammarians, the analogical infinitive avēre occurs exactly once in the unambiguous meaning 'to fare well' in the corpus and more often means 'to greet' (i.e. 'to say ave'—a different verb, clearly built on ave but not the infinitive of it). The analogical plural avēte occurs twice in Classical Latin: once in Apuleius, in the mouth of a blowhard character, where its presence is clearly a stylistic choice, and once in the Vulgate (directly translating χαίρετε); it does not seem to have been in actual use.

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  • Haven't we said it all before?
    – fdb
    Aug 9, 2022 at 22:04
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    @fdb It's definitely come up before, but I saw this question in the sidebar of another question I just answered and the accepted answer is wrong, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to repeat it.
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 9, 2022 at 22:09
  • Is it really wrong so much as outdated and generally less accepted hypothesis? It's not like we know for sure that the Phoenician hypothesis is for sure what happened, even if it's most likely. Or has there been some recent advancement that made this all but certain?
    – cmw
    Aug 13, 2022 at 4:29

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