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Survive and Vivir

It might be obvious to you that survive comes from the same root as vivir (Spanish, meaning “to live”), although that was not obvious to me at first despite both sharing the v-v-r root.

What is interesting, however, is the origin of survive–from the Latin super- (“to go over”) with the root vivire (“to live,” just as in vivir). Thus, to survive literally means “to live beyond” or “live past” other people — it is a purely comparative word! It’s not living; it’s living longer than someone else. This explains why its original sense and the first usages of the word were in the context of inheritances: he who survives the others gets the inheritance.


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