There are a lot of Latin words that begin with se-. It adds the notion of being "apart" or "separated":

  • secerno
  • secludo
  • secubo
  • seduco
  • seiungo
  • sepono
  • etc.

The linked entry calls it an "inseparable prefix" meaning "aside / by itself." Wiktionary associates it with the reflexive pronoun se. There also seems to be a separate (apparently unrelated) meaning where se is a contraction of sine, e.g. securus = sine cura.

These options provoked some questions for me:

  • If se- is related to the reflexive pronoun, how do we make sense of the "apart" meaning?
  • If se- is a preposition, why does it only appear as a prefix? It reminds me of secus, but seems to have the opposite meaning.
  • I'd also be curious which (if any) version of se is related to semel and simplex etc: I could see the connection to "separated" but it's a bit of a stretch
    – Draconis
    May 29, 2018 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


There is a (rare) preposition sēd, sē “without” with the ablative (as in Old Latin sed fraude), and (more commonly) a prefix sē- “without, apart from” (as in securus etc.), and also the conjunction sed “but”. The commonly accepted theory is that these derive from some case form (ablative?) of the reflexive pronoun IE *swe-, as in Latin se, suus. The semantic development would have been something along the lines of “on one’s own” > “without”.

  • Very helpful! Am I correct, then, to think that the derivation from the reflexive pronoun is pretty remote, and the closer association is to the obsolete preposition sēd, sē?
    – brianpck
    May 30, 2018 at 13:37
  • @brianpck. Probably.
    – fdb
    May 30, 2018 at 13:44

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