Word of the day: Execute

Execute is one of those wonderful words that shows just how downright bizarre and glorious the English language is. It’s a word that means it’s own opposite.

Think about it for a moment.

If you execute a program, you start it; but if you execute a person……… You’re ahead of me, right?

Execute means to begin something, and to end something. It’s both, depending on what you’re executing. If it’s a thing, it starts (a program or a will, for example); if it’s a living being (a criminal, a US president – ok, same thing)  then it’s life is ended.

Execute: it’s the alpha and omega. The beginning and the end.

That also means an Executive and an Executioner are exactly the same thing. They both execute things.

Ain’t language grand?

2 Comments on “Word of the day: Execute”

  1. The linguist part of me chimes in that the divergence is mostly due to phrase-shortening (if there is a technical term I have forgotten it). At its base, “execute” means “to carry out”, “to follow through”, and one would carry out/execute capital punishment on a criminal. After a while, the phrase got shortened with just “execute” standing in for the whole phrase, and eventually came to take on the meaning of that phrase.

    It’s kind of like how “sanction”, originally meaning “ratify”, has come to mean two specific and opposite kinds of ratification.

    So, really, there are several processes at work here. Not like anyone cares. But it’s processes like that that make definitions that are so perplexing on the surface. :)

    Sorry if I do offend by running my mouth off about this. Think of this as my mid-week therapy. ;)

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