Word of the Day: ab initio
ab initio (adverb) ab-ih-NISH-ee-oh
: from the beginning
“Like many of contemporary architecture’s most celebrated figures, [Zaha] Hadid is often presented as an artist who conceives her buildings entirely ab initio.” — Ellis Woodman, The Daily Telegraph (London), 3 Sept. 2012
“Two months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Federal Court judges are not eligible to represent Quebec on its bench. Justice Nadon’s nomination was therefore void ab initio.” — André Pratte, The Globe and Mail (Canada), 29 May 2014
Did You Know?
We’ll tell you right from the beginning where ab initio comes from. This adverb was adopted at the beginning of the 17th century directly from Latin, where it translates as “from the beginning.” (Initio is a form of the noun initium, meaning “beginning,” which gave rise to such English words as initial, initiate, andinitiative.) Ab initio most frequently appears in legal contexts, but it is not surprising to find it used outside of the courtroom. The phrase is also used as an adjective meaning “starting from or based on first principles” (as in “predicted from ab initio calculations”).
Why am I surprised? Well, first off, I think of myself as a well-rounded individual. I don’t pretend to know it all, but I feel I know a bit and comprehend more. Well, maybe I am no so well-rounded as I thought.
First off, I never knew a single word in the English language could include a space in the middle of the word. Ab Initio has such a space. It is considered a single word though to me; it is two words. It can’t be of course, as the first two letters of the word do not include a vowel, an essential component in the English language.
However, I do understand the concept. When I first reflected on the word, I recognized its Latin roots. I then figured that it most likely is used in either the medical or legal vernacular. I’m not sure whether it can be used in everyday conversation.
When I researched the word, I stumbled upon a website devoted to the concept, ‘from the beginning to infinity’ or ‘ab initio ad infinitum.’ The site hasn’t been updated in over four years now, but I found it an interesting read. More importantly, through it, I found another artist who intrigues me, A. Andrew Gonzalez. I plan on adding him to my list of artists to study.
What do you think about the word? Can the average person use it in everyday conversation? Certainly, if you want to read my Mona Bendarova books, you need to read them ab initio. Hmmm, an interesting word, don’t you think?
Please share your comments. I’m sure we would all enjoy reading them.
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