Faeces (etymology)

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It is an odd fact that the Latin word faeces does not mean what the English word faeces does. (Faeces is pronounced with two long '-e-' vowels, and a soft '-c-', IPA: /ˈfiː siːz/. In the associated adjective faecal, the '-c-' is [[soft '-c-'|hard: 'FEE-kul', /l/.

  • in current English, faeces means '[normally] solid bodily waste'; 'bodily waste expelled through the anus', 'excrement' (or, informally, 'shit'). This meaning is only recorded in OED from 1625; before then, it was used like the Latin in the general sense of 'dregs'.
  • In Latin, faeces, the plural form of faex, means 'dregs', 'grounds', 'sediment' or 'lees', terms usually associated with wine and other liquids: the solid particles that may settle out of a sample (e.g. a bottle-full) of the liquid. By extension it also came to mean 'rubbish' or 'waste'.
    • In American English, the normal spelling is feces, and the associated adjective fecal. (Both are pronounced like their British equivalents,) This reflects the usual American simplification of vowel digraphs. See also Fetid - fetor and foetus - fetus.