Where does the word “precocious” come from and What does precocious mean?

Were we to reserve the word “precocious” for its ancient Latin meaning, we would use it now instead of “precooked,” for that was the original literal sense.

It was derived from prae, before, and coquo, cook or boil. But praecoquo came early to mean “to ripen fully,” and from that sense its participle, praecoquus or praecox, was applied to fruit “ripening before its time; prematurely.”

We continue to use precocious in this latter sense, but we also apply it especially to children who develop prematurely, either mentally or physically.

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.

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