Reading the etymology of fiend propelled me to read Univ. Texas's page on the PIE etymon     pē(i)-, pī-     'to hurt, scold, shame', whose Semantic Fields are stated as:

to Harm, Injure, Damage; Shame (n).

Under this PIE etymon, I saw the Latin adverb paene listed; but per Wiktionary, it does not connote or denote any negativity or injure or shame. So why was paene assigned to this PIE etymon?

  • 3
    This does seem a strange one. I hope somebody knows and can answer, 'cause now I'm curious. Apr 12, 2016 at 10:14
  • 1
    A possible clue is English hardly, which shows a semantic shift from "with difficulty" to "almost". "With difficulty" and "with pain" aren't far apart.
    – TKR
    Dec 4, 2016 at 19:33
  • Possible duplicate of Why is "paeniteo" considered more correct than "poeniteo"?
    – cmw
    Dec 4, 2016 at 21:04
  • 1
    The etymology of paene is unknown and contested. de Vaan summarizes the suggestions on record (including the derivation from *piH-) and shows that they are all untenable.
    – fdb
    Dec 4, 2016 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


Because this etymology means that paene would be related to paenitet (as, indeed, the Oxford Latin Dictionary indicates it is), I should think that the connection is something along these lines:

If one thing is 'almost' another thing, it falls short of that thing in some essential quality, the full possession of which would make it wholly that thing; therefore, it's 'damaged' or 'causes dissatisfaction' (one of the definitions of paenitet in OLD) vis-à-vis that thing.

  • Nice explanation! Welcome to the site!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 5, 2016 at 7:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.