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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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