A Profusion of confusing fuses

I recently returned from the Aspen Music Festival where the word that came to mind was “profusion”: wildflowers everywhere, charging streams overflowing their banks and a bounty of music. I got to wondering whether “profusion” was related to “fusion” or to either the noun or verb “fuse.”

“Profuse” is from the classical Latin profūsus ‘immoderate, extravagant, lavish, copious, excessive,’ used as adjective of past participle of profundere ‘to pour out, to lavish, to squander ‘<prō-,  ‘forward’ + fundere ‘to pour.’

The verb “fuse” meaning ‘to make fluid by means of intense heat; to liquefy, melt’ or figuratively, ‘To blend intimately, amalgamate, unite into one whole, as by melting together’ also comes from fundĕre, ‘to pour, melt.’ Fundĕre, by way of French, is the source of “foundry” and “fondue.”

Fundĕre also gives rise to “confuse” and “confound” (which are “doublets,” words with the same etymology), “fusile,” “perfuse” and “suffuse.”

Even “refund” comes, via Anglo-Norman, from classical Latin refundere ‘to cause to flow back, to pour back, to give back, restore.’  The etymologists at the Oxford English Dictionary seem uncertain on whether “refuse” is from the same source. But apparently fundĕre is the source of “futile”: Latin fūtilis (more correctly futtilis) ‘that easily pours out, leaky, hence untrustworthy, vain, useless,’ usually supposed to be < fud- stem of fundĕre ‘to pour out.’

“Fuse,” the cord used ignite a bomb, refuses to melt together with the other “-fuses.” It comes from Italian fuso ( < Latin fūsus) ‘spindle,’ hence it is applied to the spindle-shaped tube originally used as a ‘fuse’ for a bomb, etc. On the other hand, the safer kind of “fuse,” the strip of wire that melts and breaks an electric circuit if the current exceeds a safe level, does ultimately come from fundere. Is that enough to confuse and confound you?

Pouring Satyr photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

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One Response to A Profusion of confusing fuses

  1. It’s easy to get lost in etymological windings- but it’s also a tremendous amount of fun!

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