This is one of those things I must have known at some point, but it came as a fresh shock to me when I ran across it today: price, prize, and praise are, historically, the same word. Here’s what the OED has to say:

price, n.
[ME. a. OF. pris (mod.F. prix):—earlier *prieis (= Pr. pretz, Sp. prez, It. prezzo):—late L. precium, orig. pretium ‘price, value, wages, reward’; in OF. also ‘honour, praise, prize’. The long ī of ME. pris was variously represented by ii, ij, iy, yi, y, ie, and indicated later by final e, prise; but to avoid the z sound of s between two vowels (cf. rise, wise), prise was changed to price (as in dice, mice, twice). The pl. had, sometimes at least, the z sound (cf. house, houses) and was commonly written prises, prizes in 16-17th c.; but though (‘praɪzɪz) is still common dialectally and with individuals, the standard pronunciation is now (‘praɪsɪz) after the sing., prices being thus distinguished from prizes. ME. pris had all the OF. senses ‘price, value, honour, prize, praise’; it first threw off the last of these, for which in 15th c. the n. preise, PRAISE, was formed from the cognate vb. preisen, PRAISE. During the last 300 years it has also thrown off the fourth sense, for which the by-form PRIZE has been established. The sense ‘honour’ is obsolete, that of worth or value (‘a pearl of great price’) obs. or arch., so that price now retains only the primitive sense of OF. pris and L. pretium.]

That’s the kind of thing that made me want to be a historical linguist. (Via


  1. Certainly got me reading the etymology of any word I looked up.

  2. I’ve noticed before that the term “grand prix” meant both “grand prize” and “great expense”!

  3. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word price is ultimately from PIE *preti- “back,” on notion of “recompense” (cf. Skt. aprata “without recompense, gratuitously,” Gk. protei “toward, to, upon”). I wonder if PIE *prī- “to love” is related to this word.

  4. Grand prix: The late Rob Walker, who ran Grand Prix cars as a private entrant in the ’50s, ’60s (think Johnny Walker) was asked how to make a small fortune from Grand Prix racing. His answer :
    “Start with a big one.”

  5. Kári Tulinius says

    The OED is such a big bundle of joy! It’s a good thing I don’t have ready access to one, otherwise I’d just sit and browse through all day, everyday. However, this sentence is giving me a headache, though that may just be because it’s early in the morning:
    but to avoid the z sound of s between two vowels (cf. rise, wise), prise was changed to price (as in dice, mice, twice)
    Who was doing the avoiding?

  6. Kári: The idea is that the spelling was changed so it would be clear that the pronunciation was /s/, not /z/; the entire literate population of England, so to speak, was doing the avoiding.

  7. The “value / price” distinction is a tricky one; economists tend to identify the two, though others object.

  8. The cynic is…

  9. In Dutch, the same verb (prijzen) applies to all three meanings.

  10. I’ve always liked plea, plead, please, pleasant, pleasure. It’s a story with a happy ending.

  11. Speaking of prizes: Sorry, Hat, that the Mets didn’t get the NLCS grand prix. It was an exciting series, though, down to the bitter end.

  12. I appreciate the commiseration. I wasn’t expecting them to win, given the shaky rotation (I told a friend Mr. Met was slated to start the seventh game), but the starting pitching wasn’t the problem — it might as well have been Tom Seaver on the mound last night. No, it was the vaunted Mets bats and relief pitching that failed them. I was disgusted enough by the time the Cards took a two-run lead in the ninth that I almost turned off the TV and went to bed, but I loyally stayed up and was rewarded by the Mets loading the bases and getting Beltran to the plate, the one man you’d want batting in that situation. Then… he watches strike three go by. That’s completely unacceptable, and if Steinbrenner were running the team he’d be traded to the Matagalpa Indígenas for two batboys and a goat to be named later. I suppose I’ll watch the Series, but damn, what a letdown after a great season.
    Apologies to everyone else for a completely off-topic rant, but my heart is too full, I cannot be silent.

  13. David Marjanović says

    German: prize (noun) = Preis; price (noun) = Preis; praise (verb) = preisen; praise (noun) = Lob, Lobpreisung, etc..

  14. The cynic is …

    Lisp programmers, on the other hand, know the value (in the mathematical sense) of everything and the cost (in the sense of computer resources consumed) of nothing.

  15. After a lapse of a decade, the ellipse is followed up!

  16. But it’s a decade off as well, Java is where the ‘all operations have unit cost’ mindset lives on.

    Also, modern Danish has pris in most of the OF senses too. (Honour is the exception).

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