\ \ There are two distinct words count in English. Countenumerate’ [14] comes ultimately from Latin computārecalculate’ (source of English compute). It came into English from Old French conter, which had, via the notion of ‘adding up and rendering an account’, developed the sense ‘tell a story’ (preserved in English in the derivatives account and recount). The derivative counter [14] began life as medieval Latin computātōriumplace of accounts’, and entered English via Anglo- Norman counteour. Its modern sense ‘surface for transactions in a shop’ does not seem to have become firmly established until the early 19th century, although it was applied to similar objects in banks from the late 17th century.
\ \ The noble title count [16] comes via Old French conte from Latin comes, which originally meant ‘companion, attendant’ (it was a compound noun, formed from the prefix com- ‘with’ and īrego’, and so its underlying etymological meaning is ‘one who goes with another’). In the Roman empire it was used for the governor of a province, and in Anglo- Norman it was used to translate English earl. It has never been used as an English title, but the feminine form countess was adopted for the wife of an earl in the 12th century (and viscount was borrowed from Anglo-Norman viscounte in the 14th century). The Latin derivative comitātus was originally a collective noun denoting a ‘group of companions’, but with the development of meaning in comes it came to mean first ‘office of a governor’ and latterly ‘area controlled by a governor’. In England, this area was the ‘shire’, and so county [14], acquired via Anglo-Norman counte, came to be a synonym for ‘shire’. Another descendant of Latin comes is concomitant [17], from the present participle of late Latin concomitārī.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.


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