The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Facilitate’

posted in: Language 0

The Hidden Power of Words series takes a look at the language origins of frequently used words across the subjects of organizing, time management and productivity. There’s quite a lot of hidden history (and fascinating order) when it comes to the words we use in today’s day and age!

facilitate |fəˈsiliˌtāt|

verb [ with obj. ]

make (an action or process) easy or easier

Image of sign "Easy Street"

Today’s Word: Facilitate

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “Sophie facilitated the sales meeting this afternoon with flying colors; the gathering ran like clockwork.” “I’m looking for a productivity app that will facilitate keeping track of all my tasks and to-dos. Do you have any recommendations?”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: Having studied French for several years, I know that the word ‘facile’ in French means ‘easy.’ Therefore, it is only fitting for me to guess the word origin for ‘facilitate’ comes from Old French or perhaps even Latin.

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from French faciliter, from Italian facilitare, from facile ‘easy,’ from Latin facilis (see facile).

Ah, well I was correct in my guess! Let’s take a step further by looking at the word ‘facile.’

facile |ˈfasəl|
1 (esp. of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial.
• (of a person) having a superficial or simplistic knowledge or approach
2 (of success, esp. in sports) easily achieved; effortless
• acting or done in a quick, fluent, and easy manner

ORIGIN late 15th cent. (in the sense ‘easily accomplished’): from French, or from Latin facilis ‘easy,’ from facere ‘do, make.’

I have to say, looking at the origins of ‘facilitate’ now gives me a new way of looking at meeting or event facilitator. In today’s world we’re always looking for ways to live easier, less difficult lives. Truly, facilitators do keep things in order and make sure that a gathering runs smoothly, or easily, and that things get done in a timely and proper fashion. Keep this fact in mind the next time you attend a meeting with a facilitator!

Now to you…how did you fare in your guesses of the word origins of ‘facilitate?’ Were you surprised? Leave a comment below and join in the conversation!

Note: Dictionaries used for definitions and references are The New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.2.1 (143.1), Apple Inc., Copyright 2005-2011.

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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