chapter

\ \ [13] Ultimately, chapter is the same word as capital. Both came via Old French from Latin capitulumsmall head’, a diminutive form of caputhead’, but whereas capital represents a late, 12th-century borrowing into French in ecclesiastical and legal contexts, chapter is far earlier and therefore shows more differences: in Old French, capitulum became chapitle, later chapitre. Already in Latin the word was used for ‘section of a book’; the semantic development seems to parallel English headcategory, section’ (as in ‘heads of agreement’) and the derived heading. The ecclesiastical use of chapter, as a collective term for the canons of a cathedral, originated in the canons’ practice of meeting to read a chapter of Scripture.
\ \ Latin capitulum in the sense ‘head of a discourse, chapter’ produced the derivative capitulāredraw up under separate headings’.
\ \ When its past participle passed into English in the 16th century as the verb capitulate, it was still with this meaning, and it did not narrow down to the more specific ‘make terms of surrender’ until the 17th century.
\ \ Cf.CAPITAL, CAPITULATE, CATTLE, RECAPITULATE

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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