Where does the verb quire come from? L&S is unsure of the etymology but compares it to a Sanskrit word. Do we know more about the etymology of the verb?

Is composed of ire ("to go") and another (perhaps unknown) element, or is the conjugation a regularization of something else? It seems weird to me that quire behaves as if it was qu- and ire, but prefix rings no bell and there seems to be little semantic connection to any kind of going. Other compound verbs from ire are much easier to make sense of.

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    de Vaan: *neque it(ur) > nequit(ur) > ne quit(ur)
    – Alex B.
    Jul 4, 2018 at 2:34
  • @AlexB. Interesting! Does de Vaan argue why it is so and explain how the meaning arose from that origin? If there are any more details to the story, that would be a good answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 4, 2018 at 2:37
  • There were suggested edits to add the tag negation. I rejected them on the grounds that the question itself is not about negations and does not even mention nequire alongside quire. That the answer is related to negation does not affect tagging; tags are for questions, not answers.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2018 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


The etymology I've heard, though I can provide no sources on it, is that it started with the idiom neque it "he doesn't go yet" = "he cannot" (compare French ne pas "not a step" used to negate verbs).

Through regular elision, this then became nequit "he cannot".

And once the link to the original neque was lost, this was rebracketed as nē quit, since was far more common than neque as a negation, and it has no real connection to the meaning.

  • That quire is derived backwards from nequire does indeed seem quite plausible, or at least far more plausible than anything I could think of.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 4, 2018 at 3:25

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