Alex M. Asks: Is the the s or the c that’s quiet in words scent and why go it have both letters?

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Without a doubt, the C is quiet in scent. And the factor the C is existing at all have the right to be attributed come a few scholars’ compulsive need for orderliness.

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Like numerous English words, scent was obtained from larger lexemes of other languages – in scent’s case, the Anglo-Norman and Middle French indigenous sente. Initially (~13th century) meaning the characteristic odor of one animal, by the end of the 14th century, it additionally had the denotation we recognize today the aroma.

Like that is predecessor, odor in English was at first spelled without the C (and, economically, the useless second E), as in cutting board Hoccleve’s ~1422 Tales of Jerelaus:

And ther-to eek, together sharp punisshement together pat dyuyse ther kowde any kind of wight, then sholdest han y-preeued through the sent.<1>

Although sent was maybe to preserve its integrity for the most component until the so late 16th century, offered the lax rules of spelling in English earlier in the day, ~ its introduction, at least a couple of rebels were using its French spelling, including William Caxton in his translate in of the Recuyell that the Historyes of Troye (~1473): “Every male rose fro the table abhorring & eschewing the sente and sauour of the dede man.”<2>


Moreover, even during this early period there were a couple of incorrigible C admirers that couldn’t resist trying come sneak it in, such together Stephen Hawes’ 1517 version of Passetyme of Pleasure that eschewed the S altogether: “In my mouthe, it hadde a meruaylous cent that dyuers spyces.”<3>

Of course, once you consider his order in general, perhaps Hawes’ cent had actually nothing to do with orthography and he was just rolling his own.

In any kind of event, the person an initial responsible for printing scent through an S and a C may have actually been man Maplet in The Greene Forest (1567): “That the planet . . . Should offer to the sleep obiecte so swete Or minister scent so strong.”<4>

Apparently breaching the levee, quickly scent v a C began appearing in every sorts that works, consisting of John Baret’s Aluearie (1574), Edward Topsell’s History that Fovre-footed Beastes, and also Edward Grimeston’s translation of Avity’s The Estates, Empires, and also Principalities of the World (1615).

By the finish of the century, return outliers remained, it to be clear the the agreement had cleared up on scent through a C. But why?

As you have the right to see from the quotations above, also through the 16th century English spelling to be an ungovernable mess. Having had their fill of chaos, the orderly sought come standardize our words, and also early attempts included Sir thomas Smith’s ironically titled De recta et emendate linguæ scriptione (On Rectifying and Amending the written English Language) (1568), Hart & Herald’s An Orthographie (1569) and also the vicar of Wootton St. Lawrence, Charles Buter’s, English Grammar (1634).

Part and parcel through this drive towards spelling uniformity was an almost obsequious devotion come Latin. Born that the renewed interest in Greek and also Roman scholarship and culture that ignited the Renaissance, a type of brand-new Latin concerned the fore and also became the language of scholars across Europe.


Accordingly, once it came time to standardize spelling, these at an early stage English orthographers turned to the language they loved best. And also since it was a system they were trying to develop, sometimes words were put together in categories that their etymologies didn’t exactly fit.

Called analogical change or remodeling, it’s the process of creating a brand-new part of a word indigenous something the is already well known. For example, if you recognize that words for much more than one bird is birds and also for more than one cat is cats, then you may eventually deduce that the word for more than one dog is dogs.

However, this process can occasionally lead friend astray, such together if girlfriend thought words for more than one mouse was mouses or for an ext than one deer to be deers. And also this is a bit like what occurred with scent, return it’s no clear if they were mistaken regarding its pedigree or just didn’t care.

There room a number of words v Latin roots the are similar to scent, which go not reportedly have any kind of Latin heritage. These encompass scene, who ancestry contained the Latin word scēna, scepter, which came from the Latin scēptrum, and science, which could trace the lineage directly to the Latin scientia.

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And, due to the fact that it was far preferable to this Latinophiles come refer as much as humanly feasible to your favorite language, scent’s fate to be sealed.

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OED via publicly Library of Cincinnati and also Hamilton CountyReferences