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Recin­to and Precinct and Cinch

Recin­to (Span­ish for “en­clo­sure” or “fa­cil­i­ty”) comes from the Latin re- (which just adds em­pha­sis) and the Latin cin­tus (a noun mean­ing “sur­round­ing” — in the lit­er­al sense, of some­thing that sur­rounds some­thing else, like en­clos­ing a cir­cle around them; or sim­i­lar­ly, “en­cir­cling.”)

From that same root, we get the Eng­lish word precinct — which makes sense, since a precinct is re­al­ly just a ra­dius or… en­cir­cling to de­fine a neigh­bor­hood.

More sur­pris­ing­ly from same root is, cinch. This Latin word mean­ing a cir­cling came to mean sword-belt (it is a belt that en­criclces you!), which then came to mean the Span­ish cin­cha, mean­ing “gir­dle.” That then came back to Eng­lish to mean, “a sure thing” and then “easy” — be­cause your gir­dle stays on tight­ly to be a sure thing. It is a cinch!

1859, Amer­i­can Eng­lish, “sad­dle-girth,” from Span­ish cin­cha “gir­dle,” from Latin cin­gu­lum “a gir­dle, a sword­belt,” from cin­gere “to sur­round, en­cir­cle,” from PIE root *kenk- (1) “to gird, en­cir­cle” (cog­nates: San­skrit kankate “binds,” kan­ci “gir­dle;” Lithuan­ian kinkau “to har­ness hors­es”). Re­placed ear­li­er surcin­gle. Sense of “an easy thing” is 1898, via no­tion of “a sure hold” (1888).

We can see the c‑n-t root clear­ly in recin­to and precinct, and the very sim­i­lar c‑n-ch in cinch as well.


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