§93. Compounds Related to FACERE

Of all the verbs used to form Latin compounds, none has been more fruitful than facere, which appears in English in such forms as pacific (< pac-i-fic-us), pacify (< pac-i-fic-are), and pacification (< pac-i-fic-at-io). Here the first base is pax, pacis (“peace”), so that pacific means “peace-making.” The 1st conjugation verb pacificare is a regular denominative from the adjective pacificus; the English spelling -fy is a legacy of the French -fier. English hasn’t many adjectives in -ific: terrific (< terror, “fright”), horrific (< horror, “shudder”), honorific (< honor, “honour”), beatific (< beatus, “blessed”), soporific (< sopor, “sleep”), prolific (< proles, “offspring”), and scientific (< scientia, “knowledge”). We could easily produce a longer list of words in -fy, most of which have corresponding abstract nouns in -fication. In the following sample, notice that the compound may begin with a noun or an adjective; notice also the CONNECTING VOWEL.

deus (“god”) de-i-fic-are deify de-i-fic-at-io deification
ramus (“branch”) ram-i-fic-are ramify ram-i-fic-at-io ramification
os, ossis (“bone”) oss-i-fic-are ossify oss-i-fic-at-io ossification
clarus (“clear”) clar-i-fic-are clarify clar-i-fic-at-io clarification
verus (“true”) ver-i-fic-are verify ver-i-fic-at-io verification
mollis (“soft”) moll-i-fic-are mollify moll-i-fic-at-io mollification

Our list would include magnify, rectify, justify, stultify, ratify, nullify, modify, petrify, calcify, and personify. The last word has a comic-opera doublet. On capturing the maiden daughters of Major-General Stanley, W.S. Gilbert’s Pirates of Penzance sing out in glee:

You shall quickly be parsonified,
Conjugally matrimonified,
By a doctor of divinity
Who is located in this vicinity.

From Latin significare (E signify) is derived the present participle significant.[1]

Several unusual English -fy verbs come from Latin compounds in -facere, factus. Thus satisfy (L satis-facere, “to make enough”), satisfaction (L satis-fact-io); putrefy (L putre-facere, “to make rotten”), putrefaction; and liquefy (L lique-facere, “to make liquid”), liquefaction.[2] The present participle liquefacient joins others of its type in §82: rubefacient (“making red”), tumefacient (“making swollen”), and abortifacient (“producing abortion”)—a modern medical coinage.

Before fleeing the fertile field of facere, we must tip our caps to some Latin compound nouns: sacr-i-fic-ium (E sacrifice), art-i-fic-ium (E artifice), and or-i-fic-ium (E orifice), “a mouth-making.” We can also salute bene-fact-or and its antonym male-fact-or, along with art-i-fact and manufacture (L manū-fact-ura, “making by hand”). English has two related nouns benefit (< bene-fact-um) and benefice (< bene-fic-ium); the second is the source of beneficial (< bene-fic-i-alis)—cf. sacrificial and artificial.

  1. If you remember the -fic-, you’ll never misspell this word as “signifigant”—a persistent student error.
  2. Though it seems a spelling quirk, the -e- in putrefy and liquefy is a 2nd conjugation stem vowel.


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Greek and Latin Roots: Part I - Latin Copyright © 2016 by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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