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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The word propagation has many different definitions in various fields of study. The three most common definitions used in today’s society are the production of offspring or the action of causing a plant or animal to produce offspring, the promotion of a belief, idea, or practice, and the transmission of a disease. In each case, the definition was related to multiplication or a process of spreading to a larger number or area. Propagation was also used as a definition for the offspring which is produced by propagation. This is a definition which has since fell into disuse. In physics, propagation is the progression of energy through a medium or in a specific direction. Energy can refer to movement, waves, vibrations, etc. In chemistry, propagation refers to the steps in a chain reaction. It describes where molecules are formed or how polymer chains are lengthened to generate more reagents which keep the reaction going.
The root of the word propagation can be derived from the Old French word, propagacion, from the 13th century, meaning production of offspring or procreation. The Latin root is propagationem derived from propagare meaning extend or enlarge which is then derived from propago. It is made up of the prefix pro-, meaning forward or through, and the Proto-Indo-European root pag-, meaning fix, join together, unite, make firm. The PIE root is used in the word pact meaning an agreement between two parties. The definition of the PIE root makes sense for the word pact because two parties are joined together. In the case of propagation, the use of pag- could refer to the act of breeding where two parties unite to form offspring. The Latin definitions of propagation initially referred to the multiplication of plants. In English, propagation is used to reference animals and humans as well, anything which produces offspring. All the definitions of propagation are in some way connected with the concept of spreading or multiplying. When compared with the PIE root, they seem to contradict each other. However, the act of spreading ideas will unite the believers into a larger group. As mentioned before, the act of producing offspring is only possible when there is male and female component that unites naturally. The only contradiction is instances of asexual reproduction within certain organisms.
The usage of the word propagation has varied over the year. It initially only described the production of offspring as the Latin roots suggest. Eventually, propagation was used to define other actions and events. The first documented use of propagation to define the spreading of ideas, specifically religion was in 1531. The word propaganda meaning information , ideas, or rumours in some form deliberately spread to help or harm another party is directly linked with that definition of propagation. Propaganda is a physical tool with which ideas are spread while propagation is the act of spreading ideas.

1.      “Pact,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed November 17, 2012 http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pact&allowed_in_frame=0
2.     “Propaganda,” Dictionary.com, accessed November 17, 2012 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/propaganda?s=t
3.      “Propagation,” Dictionary.com, accessed November 17, 2012 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/propagation
4.     “Propagation,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed November 17, 2012 http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=propagation
5.       “Propagation,” Oxford English Dictionary, accessed November 17, 2012 http://www.oed.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/Entry/152614?redirectedFrom=propogation#eid

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