Spanish word ocio (English: 'leisure') and negocio (English: 'business` among other meanings) come from Latin otium and negotium. Spanish ocio also gave ocioso, as in estar ocioso (English: 'to be idle' or 'unoccupied'). And a possible meaning of negocio in Spanish is 'occupation'.

So it seems that both words are somewhat related, as negotium seems to be something like not otium. Is that so? Has that neg- prefix something to do with negāre or negatio?

1 Answer 1


From de Vaan's etymological dictionary:

otium 'spare time, relaxation' [n. o] (P1.+) Derivatives: otiosus 'at leisure, inactive' (P1.+); negotium 'work, business, 1 difficulty' (PI.+), negdtiolum 'little business, slight difficulty' (P1.+), negotiosus 'occupied, busy' (PI.+).

For otium, an etymology involving *au- is unattractive, since there is no evidence for *au-. Benveniste 1951 argues that negotium must have been a nominal cp. *nec-otium from the start, with the meaning 'non-loisir', that is, 'obstacle, empechement'. It would have been a Latin calque on Gr. ἀσχολία 'absence of spare time', 'occupation'. This leaves unanswered the question of why the Romans not translate the Gr. word as *in-otium. The word remains without etymology. Bibl.: WH II: 157,228f„ EM 436,471.

  • I've just read in a Spanish etymology book by Joan Corominas that negocio is indeed a "negative derivative of otium", but does not go more in depth about it.
    – Charlie
    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:23
  • @Charlie. Yes, but don't "confirm" something from a book published in 2008 by referring to one published in the 1950s.
    – fdb
    Oct 1, 2018 at 12:05

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.