Several months ago, whilst orienting myself to the Cosmos, I found myself wondering if the words “divine [divinus]” and “divide [dividere]” have the same origins – because if the original human concept of divinity was related to the concept of separateness from things (and its logical inverse, the unity of all things) then I want to know that and point us back in that direction.
I started sniffing around – and while the web turned up a few signposts, I found nothing direct and authoritative on the matter. So I reached out to a few experts. Professor Richard Toporoski of the University of Toronto was kind enough to spend some time trying to pin it down with me. He wrote,
‘Divinus’ is simply an adjective derived from ‘divus’, so ‘div-‘ is the real root with which you are dealing. The etymological dictionary tells me that the basic root is ‘*dei-‘ and that the most likely meaning has to do with ‘spreading out’…
Nice! Spreading out – as in branch, split, break apart, etc.? Hmm..
The ‘di’ in front of ‘dividere’ is obviously the prefix ‘di-‘ or ‘dis-‘, ‘apart’ (hmm, there might be a connexion between ‘spread/extend’ and ‘apart’!), while the ‘*ueidh-‘ root has the sense of ‘separate’ (obvious English cognate: ‘widow’). I was surprised when the article pointed out another English cognate: ‘wood’, because, I presume, when human beings first dealt with wood, it was with the pieces they had separated from a tree or log.
So, I was really feeling like I was onto something .. but toward the end, he tossed me a slight curve ball with,
It would seem to me that any sense of duality between divinity and human beings would have developed long after the words for ‘god’ and ‘divide’ had developed in Latin and people had forgotten their origins.
Are any of you able to shed any light on this little inquest?