Weird etymology of the week: today I saw a reference to the verb cry being derived from an ancient Roman exclamation “Quirites!” ‘[Help,] citizens!’ Outmoded folk etymology, thought I, but no, the OED agreed:
[a. F. crie-r …:—L. quiritare to raise a plaintive cry, to wail, scream, shriek out, cry aloud, bewail, lament, orig. (according to Varro) to implore the aid of the Quirites or Roman citizens: ‘quiritare dicitur is qui Quiritum fidem clamans implorat’.]
And the AHD agrees:
Middle English crien, from Old French crier, from Vulgar Latin *critare, from Latin quiritare, to cry out, perhaps from Quirites, public officers to whom one would cry out in times of need.
So remember, every time you cry, you’re calling on the Quirites.


  1. According to Lewis & Short, the term Quirites itself was the original term for the inhabitants of Cures:
    Originally, the inhabitants of the Sabine town Cures, the Quirites (very rare): prisci Quirites, Verg. A. 7, 710 Serv.: veteres illi Sabini Quirites, Col. praef. § 19. –After the Sabines and the Romans had united in one community, under Romulus, the name of Quirites was taken in addition to that of Romani, the Romans calling themselves, in a civil capacity, Quirites, while, in a political and military capacity, they retained the name of Romani: post foedus Titi (Tatii) et Romuli placuit, ut quasi unus de duobus fieret populus. Unde et Romani Quirites dicti sunt, quod nomen Sabinorum fuerat a civitate Curibus; et Sabini a Romulo Romani dicti sunt, Serv. Verg. A. 7, 710 ; cf. Liv. 1, 13.– Joined with populus Romanus, the technical expression is usually POPVLVS ROMANVS QVIRITIVM, qs. the Roman commonwealth of Quirite citizens, the Roman nation of Quirites; but not unfreq. also in apposition: POPVLO ROMANO QVIRITIBVS (like homines prisci Latini, and populus priscorum Latinorum): QVOD BONVM FORTVNATVM FELIXQVE SALVTAREQVE SIET POPVLO ROMANO QVIRITIVM, REIQVE PVBLICAE POPVLI ROMANI QVIRITIVM … OMNES QVIRITES, PEDITES ARMATOS PRIVATOSQVE VOCA INLICIVM HVC AD ME, Tab. Censor. ap. Varr. L. L. 6, § 86 Müll. (The rest at
    In other words, one is calling on the Sabines…

  2. The Sobbines, you say?
    Interesting how weeping and crying out are often mixed up in the vocabulary of a language. Consider also bawl, for example. Can be shouting, or weeping loudly. And then there’s wail. But the best and most noble weeping is a quiet thing, is it not? Here’s the lovely beginning of La Jeune Parque:
    Qui pleure là, sinon le vent simple, à cette heure
    Seule, avec diamants extrêmes?… Mais qui pleure,
    Si proche de moi-même au moment de pleurer?
    Now, Alistair Elliot translates the lines like this:
    Is that the simple wind? If not, who’s crying
    There at this hour alone with furthest díamonds?
    Who’s there, so near me at the point of crying?
    But crying simply doesn’t work, I think. Has to be weeping.

  3. And quiris from co-viris. Anyway, wow.

  4. Vasmer says about Russian крик that it is related to the Greek κρίκε.

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