“Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

“Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

This post lists and defines a small family of words derived from a Latin verb meaning “set” that share the element -stitute.

Statuere, stemming from the Latin verb stare, meaning “stand,” alludes to establishment or causing to stand. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s also the forebear of statute and statue, but words that include -stitute are also descended from statuere.

To constitute (literally, “set with”) is to compose, form, or make up, or to enact or establish. Constitution is the act of doing so, and a constitution is a body of laws and principles for an entity such as an organization or a government, or the document setting them forth. That term also refers to the makeup of an entity, including an individual, or to a custom or law or to the mode of organization for a society or a state. The adjective constitutional applies to all senses, and in that form the word also serves as a noun referring to a walk one takes for fitness.

Destitute (“set away”) means “lacking,” usually in the context of personal wealth; the state of lack is called destitution.

To institute (“set in”) is to establish, inaugurate, or organize, and an institute is an entity organized for a purpose, such as instruction, or promotion of a cause. Institution is the act of establishment, and an institution is a facility or organization, or a significant component or practice.

Restitute (“reset”) is a rare verb meaning “give back” or “restore,” but the noun form, meaning “act of making good or restoring” (usually in a financial context), is common. The legal term
“restitutio in integrum” (“total reinstatement”) refers to restoration to a previous state, and a restitutionist is one who believes in religious doctrine based on ultimate restoration to a pristine state.

To prostitute (“stand before”) is to offer oneself, sexually or otherwise, for monetary gain; the act or practice is prostitution.

Substitute (“set under”) means “put in place of another,” and as a noun or adjective refers to someone or something that serves in place of another.” The act of doing so is substitution.

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Original post: “Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

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