Less and more certain?

wahrscheinlich – “probably”

wahr sein – “to be true”

scheinen – “to seem”

I’d known the word wahrscheinlich for awhile, but yesterday doing some exercises that included both wahrscheinlich and wahr sein helped me to see how the former word was constructed.  Something that is “probable” is likely something that “seems true.” Put wahr and scheinen together, a bit like wahr sein, and then tack on the -lich ending to create an adjective (this suffix is quit productive: http://www.canoo.net/services/WordformationRules/Derivation/To-A/Suffixe/lich.html?lang=en) and you’ve got “probably.”

Which reminds me to share with you a site I recently discovered where you can look up a word’s opposites: http://gegenteil-von.com What makes a word like wahrscheinlich interesting is that it has opposites that are both more and less certain. For example unwahrscheinlich –”improbable” or “unlikely” – and weit hergeholt – “far-fetched” – take us toward the uncertain end of the spectrum and bestimmt – “certain” – and definitiv – “definite” – take us toward certainty.

What’s clear is how delighted I was to discover the relationship between the word wahrscheinlich and its component parts!

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