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So, I'm playing this video game and I came across this sentence that uses "stem from" in an alien way to me.

"Their zeal is admirable, but their ideas impractical for a society that must maintain secrecy and organization to stem its own genocide from coming about."

I know that "stem from" means Originate from:(TFD source below)

stem from (something) To come, result, or develop from something else. My fear of the water stems from the time my brother nearly drowned me when we were playing in our cousin's pool as kids.

But this usage is different. It is as if it means "to prevent". There is one definition on TFD that sort of fits but it would have to be an abbreviated version of it. (TFD def) stem the tide or stem the flow COMMON If you stem the tide or stem the flow of something bad which is happening to a large degree, you start to control and stop it. The authorities seem powerless to stem the rising tide of violence. The cut in interest rates has done nothing to stem the flow of job losses.

is it possible it is that meaning?

2 Answers 2

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Yes stem has multiple meanings and can be either a verb or a noun.

As a noun it means part of a plant or drinking glass.

As a verb to stem something means to stop, prevent or avoid it. For example "stem the flow of blood by means of a tourniquet". This is the meaning in the sentence you quote. "...organization to stem its own genocide...." means "...organization to prevent its own genocide...."

And, as you say, to stem from also means to originate from.

There may be other meanings if you do some research.

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Yes. It's that last definition, but the video game's use of it is incorrect.

It doesn't mean prevent. So "...to stem its own genocide from coming about" is incorrect. We don't stem something from coming about. And the close proximity of the word 'from' is - as you found - particularly misleading.

You stem something that is already happening, like a flow of blood or a tide of protest.

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  • I suspected it was used rather incorrectly. Maybe it is used a little bit metaphorically because the people involved in the conversation as well as the ones that are spoken of are all vampires. So as if preventing the flow of blood he talks about preventing their genocide. The game is called "Vampire The Masquarade" and the masquerade is actually a code of behaviour of clans of vampires which forbids killing humans. You can only drink their blood but not to the point of their death. Nov 10, 2021 at 19:38
  • It's used wrongly, not metaphorically! Video games aren't the best places to learn English :-) "Preventing" is completely different from "stemming". Their meanings are different. Nov 11, 2021 at 1:51

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