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Hogarth judge

December 2016

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Suppliants and supplicants?

Etymologically and notionally, both *suppliants* and *supplicants* are making impassioned and formal pleas for aid from positions of deep humility.

At least to my ear, though, there is a clear distinction between the two, and the words are not redundant to each other. A supplicant craves mercy from the angered, typically from the majesty he has offended, usually a deity or king. A suppliant craves asylum, from the weak to the strong, often from a third party: the suppliant seeks to be defended from a pursuing enemy. A supplicant throws herself at the feet of her foe; a suppliant, at the feet of a champion whom she hopes will defend her.

So supplicate seems the wrong verb for what a suppliant does. So what's the right verb? Or have I imagined the alleged distinction between suppliants and supplicants?

Comments

according to my etymology dictionary, the verb for suppliant is supplicare
Supplicare would be the Latin root at the bottom of it, yes. The two verbs are etymological twins.