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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


In modern world, palace is mostly and loosely used to evoke images of grand and opulent architecture. When used in a more controlled way, it refers to an official or former residence of a politically, religiously or militarily influential figure.

The word palace was adapted into English language from its French correspondent palais. The OED indicates palais and palace are ultimately derived from Palatine; which besides its meaning in English as “designating a ruler with jurisdiction within a given area”, refers to Palatine Hill of Rome. Palatine hill was the most prestigious of Seven Hills of Rome, thus it was reserved for the eminent citizens, generals and rulers (including Julius Caesar) to inhabit. This feature is probably the reason for palace to inherently evoke concepts about authority, government and royalty. Moreover, the occupants of Palatine Hill were affluent people and thus lived in Villas and luxurious houses which we would define as palace in today’s terms. Therefore it can be construed that the name of the hill was also used to define a certain type of structure, creating an archetype which we call palace today.

Going deeper down to the roots of this word family, one sees the name Palatine was probably barrowed from Pallantium (which was the name of an ancient city in Italian peninsula). The etymology goes further down to Palantum. The Latin word Palantum describes “1.roof of the mouth, 2.acceptable to mind and taste” and it was probably derived from an Etruscan word Falandum, which meant “sky or heaven”. It can be seen that most of the words derived from this root has something to do with either prestige or flat spaces. It seems as if certain geographical elements with flat surfaces (like a mesa or top of a hill) were compared to sky (heavens) to evoke high reputation and power. Then this definition was molded into other words to evoke images either about flatness or (divine) authority or both.  This connection becomes evident and striking once the words are evaluated within the context of their roots and derivations. *See The Etymologic Relations Map at the bottom of this post.

Palace is a word of high reputation. This quality is not specific to this particular word only, but it is also valid for all its predecessors back to Falandum. It might sound too extreme at first but there is a high probability that some eminent figures throughout the history might have been renamed after words that had the same roots with palace. Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, or Andrea Palladio as history knows him, was given the name Palladio by his client and mentor Trissino to compliment his wisdom. The meaning and structure of the word might indicate relation to Pallantium or Palatine. The potential connection makes sense as Palladio was an “Italian” Master Architect. The famous philosopher Aristocles was given the name Plato by one of his teachers for his “robust figure” and perhaps for his “wide perspective of thought”. Plato meant wide, broad, widespread. The word bears similarity in structure and meaning to Palatable, Plat, Plate, Palate which can be traced back to Palatum and Falandum.

 Although not certain, I believe there is some sort of relation between these words, roots, places and names if not a direct connection. Languages work by constantly relating things into symbols and symbols with each other. Thus, they are too active to allow for dramatic coincidences.  It must be remembered that words are symbols that are invented and maintained by sociopolitical interaction rather than formulaic method in most cases.
Etymologic Relations Map for Palace

"Palace". Oxford English Dictionary. 11/18/2012

"Andrea Palladio Biographical Highlights". 11/18/2012

"Frequently Asked Questions about Plato". 11/18/2012

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