Through answers to another question, I came across Lewis & Short's definition of paeniteo, which begins:

paenĭtĕo (less correctly poen- )

L&S say that it comes from the Greek ποινή, which to me would suggest that poen- would be preferred. So what is the basis for judging paen- more correct than poen-?

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    I wondered the exact same thing when reading the answer. The dictionary entry relates it to poena and the entry for poena mentions the word poenitet, not paenitet. Confusing... – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 13 '16 at 19:58
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    It's funny how pronunciation affects perception: I generally use Ecclesiastical pronunciation, in which both oe and ae are more or less e, so the difference didn't jump out to me as it did to others. – brianpck Apr 13 '16 at 20:54

My guess is that the similarity between poena and paenitere led to a misunderstanding by L&S. De Vaan, for example, doesn't mention poena in his entry on paenitere:

paene 'almost, practicaly' [adv.] (Pl.+)

Derivatives: paenitere (p.. -ui) 'to cause dissatisfaction, cause to regret' (Pl.+) ...

The basic meaning of the stem *paen- seems to be 'missing, lacking'. IEW connects paene with the Skt. piyati scorns', which would fit if we posit *ph2-u-; but the root is reconstructed as *ph1-i- in LIV, which does not explain Latin -ae. Also, the semantics do not match well. Nero (2007: 78f.) takes up a suggestion by Vine and proposes *p(e)-ai-ni- 'not entirely' < *'from whom has been taken away' or *'who takes away', from a preverb *pe 'away' and a verb *h1ai 'to give, take'. A PIE phoneme sequence *h1ai- is in my view not possible, however, and the existence of a PIE preverb *pe is uncertain.

Paenitere from paene seems more likely than from poena, and there is no way that paene and poena are related.

  • So you're suggesting that pœnitere is a misspelling? – Joel Derfner Apr 14 '16 at 5:26
  • @JoelDerfner Yes, which was very common in Medieval Latin. – cmw Nov 30 '16 at 20:42

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