The word is commonly but inaccurately spelled “forego,” but those are really two separate and unrelated verbs. The “fore” in “forego” means “first” or “before,” so that a “foregone conclusion” is a conclusion that comes before any argument or declaration, since none is necessary. That prefix “fore” is related to all kinds of words in English that have to do with priority in time or position; the ones beginning with f come from the German stock (first, forward), while those beginning with p typically come from the Latin stock, either borrowed directly or imported through French (prime, primrose = first rose of spring, prior, pristine = in its ancient original condition, not necessarily clean; prince = the first citizen, head of state).

Word of the Day But the prefix “for” in forgo is the same as the much more common “ver” in German, and often implies something done inside out, or something done to its bitter end, as in its Latin cognate  per- ; something  perfect  has literally been done to its completion; but someone  perfidus  has taken his trustiness and twisted it into mendacity. In English the prefix survives in “forswear,” which means “to swear off,” as in “forswear thy foolish ways,” or “to swear falsely,” as in “the villain is forsworn.” It also survives in “forget,” which means that you don’t get it; “forspent,” which means you’ve spent it all, drat it; and “forlorn,” cf. German “verloren,”  Our word was the old past participle of the Old English verb  forleosan, to lose,  with the medial s turning to r by a process known as rorification, which is the process by which something turns into an r (even philologists have their jests); and in a couple of other words, including “forgo”.

blog comments powered by Disqus