Etymology Corner – Election ‘Candidates’

With a general election occurring in Britain on May 7, there is no shortage of candidates seeking votes.

The history of the word ‘candidate’ goes back to ancient Rome, where people who stood for political office would wear specially whitened togas while campaigning. These men came to be called candidati (‘whitened men’), a name derived from the Latin word candidus, meaning ‘pure white’.

The same Latin word is also behind two other English words: ‘candid’ (pure and unbiased) and ‘candida’ (a type of parasitic fungus).

Decide for yourself if either of those also applies to the current crop of candidates.

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