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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The heteronym incarcerate, a participial stem of Medieval Latin incarcerare, exists as an adjective as well as a verb. [1] The earliest origin of the word incarcer, founded at some point in the medieval era, is composed of the prefix in followed by carcer, which translates to prison.[2] Both Latin origins developed from French word encarcerer in 1392 during the late Middle Ages, then about a century later into the Renaissance, incarcérerin emerged in 1508.
Incarcerate the transitive verb is more commonly used, and can be defined as “to shut up in prison, to put in confinement or to imprison”. During the mid 15th century, incarcerate was implemented judicially; J. Rolland incorporated the word into his “Ane treatise callit: The Court of Venus” with the phrase “tratour I sall thy corps Incarcerate”. Despite its literal intention, the word was also used figuratively in cases where one is confined in a prison-like situation. To advise ways of preventing the plague of 1665[3], the English physician Gideon Harvey wrote, “those dense bodies…easily incarcerate the infected air”, using the term in the sense of “trapped” air. [4]
With its limited adjective use, incarcerate differs by depicting imprisonment. As heteronyms, the two are spelt the same way, but pronounced differently; the adjective is pronounced /ɪnˈkɑːsərət/, and the verb as /ɪnˈkɑːsəreɪt/. However, despite this possible confusion, there are no recorded misuses of the word historically.[5]
Derivatives of incarcerate from the late 18th century have continued medical uses today. With a suffix addition, incarcerated, variously used in pathology, describes a “strangulated, obstructed, or otherwise irreducible hernia and of a retained placenta”.  Percivall Pott, an English surgeon, initially wrote the term in his chirurgical text, “every symptom which attends an incarcerated rupture” in reference to the indications of a displaced organ.[6] In addition to the medical derivatives of incarcerate, the noun incarceration defining the “action of incarcerating or fact of being incarcerated” is also used to describe the “obstinate constriction or strangulation of a hernia” or “retention of the placenta in parturition”, again within pathology.[7]
An additional origin of incarcerate in Edenics, a language form previous to Hebrew, incarceration is written “קיר (QeeYR)”, a term used to describe a wall, and eventually evolved into “קרה (QaRaH)”, meaning “to board up or seal”. These Edenic terms were written in the Hebrew bible to describe how ancient cities used walls and boarding techniques as a means of defense as well as a way to confine themselves.[8]

[1]  "incarcerate, v.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/93319?isAdvanced=false&result=2&rskey=kHoylb& (accessed November 20, 2012).
[2]  "† inˈcarcer, v.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/93317 (accessed November 20, 2012).
[3]  “The Plague Book”. University of Virginia. 2007.
[4]  "incarcerate, v.".
[5]  "incarcerate, adj.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/93318 (accessed November 20, 2012).
[6]  "incarcerate, v.".
[7]  "incarceration, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/93320 (accessed November 20, 2012).
[8]  “Origin of the English word INCARCERATE”. Edenics. 2010. http://www.edenics.net/english-word-origins.aspx?word=INCARCERATE (accessed November 20, 2012).

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