fbpx

prestidigitation

What is the origin of verst?

Verst “a Russian measure of distance equivalent to 3,500 feet” is borrowed by way of either French or German from Russian verstá, from Old Russian vĭrsta “age; measure of length.” Though these two definitions are rather different, their connection is measurement, whether of time or distance. Vĭrsta derives from the Proto-Indo-European root wert- “to turn,” which is also the source of a profusion of words related to turning, twisting, and bending. The English suffix -ward (as in forward, inward, outward, and toward) is one such derivative, as are warp, worm, wrangle, wrap, wreath, wrench, wrestle, wring, wrinkle, wrist, and writhe. This root is also found in words that figuratively indicate turning in a negative direction, such as awry, weird, worry, wrath, and wrong. By way of Latin, English has inherited terms such as diversion, introvert, versatile, versus, vertebra, and vertex (from vertere “to turn”); reverberate (from verber “whip”); and converge and diverge (from vergere “to be inclined”). Several Ancient Greek-origin terms, such as rhapsody (from rháptein “to stitch”) and rhombus (from rhémbein “to revolve”), also derive from the same root. Verst was first recorded in English in the mid-1500s.