Brandon's Notepad

June 23, 2011

The Language of Forgiveness

Home > My Research > Christianity > Theology > Basic Concepts > Forgiveness

It seems that the word “forgiveness” can mean different things depending on the context and to whom you are speaking. For example, to a Catholic being forgiven does not eliminate the temporal punishment of sin even if the sinner were to die, whereas a Protestant will count death as punishment enough or perhaps believe that punishment is not necessary at all. The word itself may be too generic, insufficient to carry with it the baggage of various religious ideologies. Here I explore the meaning of the word “forgiveness” and other words often used interchangably or in conjunction with it.


First and foremost, let us examine the word forgiveness (or forgive) for indications that punishment must necessarily be waived.

Using the Online Etymology Dictionary (OED), the word “forgive” means to give, grant or allow (-give) completely (for-). The suffix -ness indicates either an action or a quality or state. The OED entry for foregiveness defines it as “pardon, forgiveness, indulgence”. In this basic understanding of the word, there is no implication of ‘righting the wrong’ either willfully (expiation) or by rule (restitution) or force (punishment), but simply a complete giving, as in the forgiveness of a debt. Indeed, according to the OED, the use of “forgive” to mean “to give up desire or power to punish” is a modern usage.

It is interesting that Merriam-Webster reverses the order of these two meanings of forgive, first defining it as:

1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
b : to grant relief from payment of

And then as:

2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

It would seem, perhaps, that the necessary inclusion of (freedom from) punishment connoted by forgiveness has supplanted the more basic meaning, at least in American English.

The Oxford Dictionary lists the two definitions of forgive in the other order:

  • stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake)
  • cancel (a debt)

According to the Wikipedia, forgiveness “is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. […] In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender.” So, this author recognizes that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily preclude the realization of negative consequences by the forgiven, and by the words “In some contexts”, even indicates that this may be the norm.

Pardon & Indulgence

Both of these terms were mentioned in the references examined above, so they are worthy of consideration as well.

More to come…

July 30, 2010

Useful Latin Words & Phrases

Filed under: Language,Latin — Brandon @ 8:11 am
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My Lists > Language > Latin Resources > Useful Latin Words & Phrases

If nothing else, Latin is useful for getting a point across. For example, a single English word can have several meanings, all of which are conveyed by different Latin words that can be compared and contrasted. Also, word roots and extensions are very useful for understanding the meanings of unfamiliar words and for the expansion of one’s own vocabulary. They aren’t very useful if you don’t use them at least on occasion, so it is beneficial to have a good list of Latin phrases on hand. Below are links to some good online lists, as well as a (growing) list of phrases I’ve found helpful or just plain cool.


Some sites with useful Latin phrases:

And, some not-so-serious ones:


Here are some I’ve used, mostly at work:

  • cum grano salis – “with a grain of salt”.
  • cura posterior – “future concern”.
  • domus dulcis domus – “home sweet home”, or at work: domus dulcis cubus.
  • esse quam videri – “to be, rather than seem to be”; common motto, including North Carolina’s.
  • ex abrupto – “without preparation”.
  • ex mea sententia – “in my opinion”.
  • imperium – power or authority.
  • in esse – “in being”, “in actual existence”.
  • locus in quo – “The place in which”; in law, the scene of an event.
  • obsta principiis – “resist the beginnings”; i.e. “nip in the bud”.
  • sapere aude – “dare to discern”; used by Horace, Kant & Foucault.
  • terra incognita – “unknown land”; ancient cartography term for unmapped regions.

From showbiz:

  • Me transmitte sursum, caledoni! – “Beam me up, Scottie!”

And, some from religion and philosophy:

  • credo ut intelligam – “I believe so that I may understand”; Anselm of Canterbury.

December 31, 2009

Latin Resources

Filed under: Language,Latin — Brandon @ 11:24 am
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My Lists > Language > Latin Resources

Even a small knowledge of the Latin language can prove to be very useful when studying other languages or when evaluating literature. It’s invaluable when studying Church documents, liturgical or historical. And it can be a lot of fun around the office if one or two others like to dabble in it as well. This page contains various resources, references and online tools, that I use to assist in translating and learning Latin.

Online Tools


My Latin Notes

Latin Texts

December 13, 2009

-Ible Vs. -Able

Filed under: English,Language — Brandon @ 8:00 pm

There is apparently no definitive spelling rule to determine when to use -able or -ible at the end of a word. The primary heuristic is to evaluate the root word as follows:

  • If the root is a full word, use -able.
  • If the root is not a full word, use -ible.
  • If the root is a word that ends in ‘e’, drop the ‘e’ and append -able.
  • If the root is a word that ends in ‘y’, change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ and (thus) use -ible.
  • If the root must be modified in any other way, use -ible.

There is a non-trivial number of exceptions. Also, it has been observed that most words require the -able ending, so if you have to guess, the odds favor -able.

Sources [broken link]

November 6, 2009

Online Etymology Dictionary

Filed under: English,Language — Brandon @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , ,

The Online Etymology Dictionary provides explanations for the origins of many English words as found in forty-six other dictionaries and lexicons. The copyright notice on the home page names Douglas Harper as the holder and is dated November 2001.

October 31, 2009

Compendium of Lost Words

Filed under: English,Language — Brandon @ 7:57 pm
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The Compendium of Lost Words, maintained by Stephen Chrisomalis, contains words that meet the following five rules:

1. The word must have a header entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.
2. The word may not appear in its proper English context on any readily accessible web page.
3. The word must have been used in Modern English.
4. The word must have been used in a standard English variety rather than simply in a regional dialect.
5. The word must not be a simple variation in spelling of another word.

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