The Joy of Language Learning
Assess

Not Your Typical Assessment

There are quite a few words in the English language whose roots might seem out of place if presented without the context. Take the word assessor for example. An assessor is someone who evaluates someone or something. But it has been derived from the Latin term assidere which means to sit beside. Their meanings seem far apart and yet they are connected. To decipher this jumble of words and meanings, lets travel back in time.

Assessors
Image Credit: GDJ/ Pixabay

Assessor came about to carry the sense of an evaluator sometime in the beginning of the 15th century. Assessors were assistant judges who used to (and here’s the connection you were looking for) sit beside the main judges of the court. It was their job to fix taxes and fines based on their deductions and evaluations. Thus to assess began to mean to evaluate. The process of evaluation, on the other hand, came to be called an assessment.

All hints point to their jobs being a rather tough and arduous one which kept the assessors quite busy. So assidere morphed into assiduus which meant being busy or constant. It then became the base for the English term assiduous which refers to someone who is persistent and diligent. If someone is assiduous in his or her attendance at the church, it means they are constant visitors of the church and this quality is referred to as assiduity (persistence or diligence).

Church
Image Source: Pixabay
Macbeth
Image Credit: WikiImages/ Pixabay

The term obsess too shares a similar story with a similar root. It is derived from the Latin term obsidere (the literal meaning being to sit in front or opposite to) which originally meant to harass or lay siege and was used especially in reference to evil spirits that were believed to have besieged people’s minds and bodies. Nowadays though it means to fill one’s mind with a thought continually and to a troubling extent. It is as if that one thought has besieged the mind of the person. This is apparent in the Shakespearean drama ‘Macbeth’ where the titular character is obsessed with becoming the king. The state of being obsessed with something is known as an obsession there is perhaps no instance where it can qualify to be a good quality. Obsessions make us desperate and lead us to dangerous paths, much like they did with Macbeth who ultimately met a cruel fate. If something is of the nature of obsession, it is called obsessive, a word you might be familiar with if you have heard of the condition OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which can include the obsessive concern for cleanliness or keeping things in an ordered manner.

That’s enough of assessments but we have just one more for you. Go through the table below first for a quick glance of the words mentioned above.


Table Summary:

PrefixWordSuffixMeaning
AssessTo evaluate
Assess-mentEvaluation
AssiduousSomeone who is persistent and diligent
AssiduityPersistence and diligence
ObsessTo be preoccupied by something
Obsess-iveCharacterised by an obsession
Obsess-ionA compulsive and unhealthy preoccupation with something or someone

Welcome to your An Assessment

He had to qualify in various assessments __________ in order to get the job (evaluations):
What does “assess” mean in the given headline?
Assess
Source: Times of India
“Assiduous” means to be:
Her ______________ is one of the reasons of her success (persistence):
“Obsess” in the given headline means:
Obsess
Source: usatoday.com
His _______________ of luxury goods is emptying his pockets faster than he can fill them (extreme desire):
Luxury goods
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt/ Pixabay
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