I’ve shared before about the real meaning of passion and how its word actually means “suffering”–so the things we’re passionate about are the things we’re willing to suffer for. Well in a church conversation recently, my husband wondered aloud whether patience–which also means “enduring pain”–could be from the same root. It seemed quite likely, so I of course came home and looked it up.

And indeed, both patience and passion are from the Latin pati, which means “to endure, undergo, experience.”

Patience entered the English language around the year 1200, spelled pacience, and meant “the quality of being willing to bear adversities; calm endurance of suffering.” The adjective patient obviously has the same meaning but as a modifier…which is why the word patient as a noun still refers to someone visiting a doctor, and hence suffering. It’s also worth noting that those early uses also bore the meaning of “firm, unyielding, hard” and was applied not only to people but of things like hard-to-navigate rivers.

In the late 1300s it had come to mean “quiet or calmness while waiting.”

Passion entered the language at around the same time but was applied solely to Christ’s suffering on the cross. It was gradually extended to the suffering of martyrs too over the next hundred or two years, and then to any suffering. By the 14th century, the word meant “any strong, vehement emotion.” This second meaning is actually due not to the Latin root itself but to the Greek pathos (from which we get empathy, sympathy, etc.); the Latin passio (which comes from that pati root still) was used to try to render the Greek, so that second meaning followed it into French and then English as well. It began being applied to strong feelings of romantic love by 1580, meant “strong liking or predilection for” by the 1630s, and “object of great desire” by 1732.

What are you passionate about and willing to wait patiently for?

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