The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Purge’

posted in: Language 0

purge |pərj|

verb [ with obj. ]

rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release


Today’s Word: Purge

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “Lana’s up to her annual clothes purge this weekend; she combs through her closet and gets rid of everything she hasn’t worn in the past year.” “He purged the business files of expired and irrelevant documents.”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: I’m going to guess ‘purge’ has origins in Latin. It just seems as if the word has origins in that language. Perhaps there’s some relation to the word ‘purgatory?’ The words certainly have a similar sound to them.

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN Middle English (in the legal sense ‘clear oneself of a charge’): from Old French purgier, from Latin purgare ‘purify,’ from purus ‘pure.’

I’d definitely say I was on the right track with my guess for the origin of ‘purge.’ The act of purging, especially when it comes to belongings, often brings with it a wonderful feeling of being free, untethered, and starting off from scratch.

While we’re on the subject, I did look up the origins of ‘purgatory’ and found the following:

purgatory |ˈpərgəˌtôrē|

noun ( pl. purgatories )

(in Roman Catholic doctrine) a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven.

• mental anguish or suffering

ORIGIN Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French purgatorie or medieval Latin purgatorium, neuter (used as a noun) of late Latin purgatorius ‘purifying,’ from the verb purgare (see purge) .

What do you know, it looks like I wasn’t too far off in my guess from earlier as well. Word origins can really be quite fascinating, wouldn’t you agree?

Note: Dictionary used for definitions and references is 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.
Latest posts from