We take a look at the etymology behind the word ‘sedentary’

Sedentary

Scientists have recently warned that a sedentary lifestyle may be as dangerous to our health as smoking. As Collins Cobuild Dictionary explains, someone who has a sedentary lifestyle or job sits down a lot of the time and does not take much exercise. The origin of the word lies in the Latin verb sedere, which means ‘to sit’. This root word produced two Latin adjectives: sedens, which is quite common in Latin and just means ‘sitting’, and sedentarius, which is rarer and has the more specific meaning of ‘tending to sit around a lot’. These words found their way into English as ‘sedent’ and ‘sedentary’ respectively. However, in English it is ‘sedent’ that is the rare word. (After all, why use ‘sedent’ when you can say ‘sitting’?) On the other hand, the more specific word ‘sedentary’ has come into its own as we find ourselves increasingly in need of a word that describes our tendency to sit down and stare at a screen all day.

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