Where does the word “impede” (expedite) come from and What does impede mean?

Those who were slaves in ancient Rome were usually left unfettered, their hands and feet unbound for the better performance of work.

Severe and sometimes barbarous punishments for those who attempted to run away, involving scourging, mutilation, or even death, Were generally sufficient to make it unnecessary for the owners to chain them.

It was customary, nevertheless, to employ fetters or chains when the nature of the work was such as to make escape fairly possible. Thus the slave whose duty it was to attend the door of a Roman house was chained to his post, and those who worked in the fields or woods were compelled to have their feet in fetters.

The Latin word that meant “to put fetters on the feet” was impedio, from in, on or upon, and pes, pedis, foot. Thus, because one who has his feet shackled together is hampered in his movements, impede came to signify “to check the motion of; to hinder.”

But a Roman slave who had been placed in chains, either at the time when he was taken into captivity, or in punishment, or at his work, found that he could move actively, apparently even with greater ease than ever before, when his fetters were removed.

Therefore our word expedite, from the Latin verb expedio, literally “to release the feet, as from fetters or a trap,” came to mean more broadly, “to hasten the progress of; to accomplish more rapidly.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

Leave a Comment