Where does “reconcile” come from? UPDATES

Ernout MeilletI received a couple notes about where the word “reconciliation” comes from. Odd.

Anyway, rather than write it all out here is a page from a dictionary of Latin etymology, Ernout Meillet.

It derives from ancient words for “call”.

Look that voice (entry) for concilium to get to the roots beneath “reconcile”, etc.

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That page should take care of that question.  Yes, I know it’s in French, but just about anyone can see what’s going on.

Since the voice sends you to calo, I’ll take you to calo.

Click for larger…



English etymological dictionaries will take you back to Sanskrit and Indo-European forms meaning, in some way, “call”. HERE and HERE


I get it now.  Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich (a member at the Synod this year) apparently opined that reconcile comes, somehow, from the Latin word cilia, which he said meant “eyelash”.


First, cilia is plural of cilium, which means “eyelid”.  And, no, “reconcile” isn’t from cilium.  It has to do with being brought together by calling.

Anyway… on a hunch, with a raised eyebrow, I looked up concilium in St. Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies, VI, 16.11.

This is what I found.


LATIN HERE  “Unde et concilium a communi intentione dictum, quasi comcilium. Nam cilia oculorum sunt.”

So… I will cut His Excellency a break (on this, at least), for it seems he is living in the past!  Checking the insights of Isidore? Who died in AD 636?  The last great scholar of late antiquity?  Bridge figure to the Medieval period? I like it.

It’s still wrong, but it is fun!

BTW… do check the famous Internet Prayer, which I wrote many year ago now.  Isidore is mentioned.


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  1. Gratias says:

    The French have an expression “il fault pas le laisser tomber” we must not let it concile.

  2. Curley says:

    I believe the question comes from archbishop Cupich’s ridiculous comments recently. He said something to the effect of reconciliation not being about forgiveness, but that “cilia” meaning eye lash and now two see eye to eye. I miss Cardinal george.

  3. CharlesG says:

    So the semantic roots essentially mean “call together again.” Nothing to do with eyelashes, Archbishop Cupich notwithstanding.

  4. Andrew says:

    One possibility (Forcellini) is a connection with “cilicium” by way of Greek (kilikion: made of hair). The reson is that “conciliare” was a word used by fullers pressing the fabric made of hair.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    Yeah, I just saw Cupich’s improbable etymology of “reconciliation” reported on the blog of Ann Barnhardt, which I am going to opt not to link to because she leaps to conclusions that Cupich’s intentions are malicious. Kind of hard not to be concerned though, because what he says seems as if he’s redefining “reconciliation” as “seeing eye to eye” and NOT being about “forgiveness”. Archbishop Blaise says in a video: “We use that word ‘reconciliation’ all the time. It doesn’t mean about giving people forgiveness. It comes from an anatomical root, namely the eyelash, it is called a cilia. So you begin to see eye-to-eye with people.”

    This is something for other bishops to take up with him fraternally.

    Fantastic find identifying a Father of the Church’s sounds-alike “folk etymology” of the word as the likely source. But how can even Cupich have thought that was a real etymology of “reconciliation”? Maybe it’s easier to be serene if you are not much of a thinker?

  6. Legisperitus says:

    I love St. Isidore, but he did get it wrong frequently. Not as dreadfully wrong as his modern lakefront counterpart, though.

    That’s a mighty cool dictionary.

  7. Michael in NoVA says:

    Well, Archbishop Cupich is not the first one I’ve heard this from. Bishop(-elect still?) Barron made the same observation and conclusion in his most recent video series, “Priest, Prophet, and King.” I wonder if he passed on this notion to Cupich, and where he may have originally heard this.

  8. Andrew says:

    Varronis “de Lingua Latina” liber VI:

    … vestimentum apud fullonem cum cogitur, conciliari dictum [est].

  9. asciiduck says:

    I’ve read and heard Bishop Baron use this false etymology and it struck me as pretty strange. It’s good to know the false etymology at least has a decent pedigree.

  10. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    I think the good archbishop must have gotten things mixed up with all the pond life in his present environment.

    Infusorians tend to come in two types: ciliates, which propel themselves by means of tiny little hairs, and flagellates, which use a whip-like tail for swimming.

    Cardinal Marx, being “an hairy man”, has an obvious ciliate quality to him. Whereas smiley Cardinal Casper, being “a smooth”, is less so. Is he perhaps more flagellate — is that a tail he’s hiding behind him?

  11. Mike says:

    Though profoundly saddened, we mustn’t be surprised: having allowed ourselves to be shamed out of our patrimony by the specious and damnable “Spirit of Vatican II,” the people of God could scarcely have expected sacramental theology not to be hideously distorted.

    Barnhardt’s conclusions may be uncharitable, but it is no less uncharitable to allow the errors of men like Barron and Cupich to continue to run riot. A needful part of our daily conversion must be to pray and work to be purged not only of pride but also of the poison that has passed for catechesis over the past two generations. May Our Lord, Whose chastisement is just, send us trustworthy shepherds and spare His people another generation of this evil.

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