I thought that the noun "aversion" was derived from the verb "aver". However, it seems they have different meanings.

My question is, how can an English learner know such nouns? I don't think there is a general rule. Should I consider such cases as the things that must be memorized?

  • 10
    The verb "aversion" corresponds to is rather avert instead of "aver". – Nihilist_Frost Dec 7 '15 at 16:23
  • 4
    What you did when you came across a new word is made an educated guess as to its origin and maybe its meaning. That is the same thing native speakers do. The more patterns you know, the better you will get at it. It is highly logical to make the assumption you did, especially if you did not know the word avert. English speakers also make assumptions or guesses and sometimes we are also wrong. – user20792 Dec 7 '15 at 17:33
  • 2
    There are patterns that exist, but they are with a t: convert/conversion; divert/diversion; pervert/perversion, etc. These all have the root word version. Some people find the study of such root words to be helpful in increasing one's vocabulary. See How can knowing a root word help me?. The more root words you know, the more educated your guesses can be! – user20792 Dec 7 '15 at 17:44
  • @NES Incidentally, "version" and anything with it as a root derive from the Latin verb vertere (turn), exhibiting a stop turning into a sibilant. – Nihilist_Frost Dec 7 '15 at 21:59

As others have indicated, you cannot rely on a word's form to deduce it's meaning. Often there is a correspondence. Words are often formed by combining parts in a predictable way. But there are many paths that words can take to arrive in English.

From etymonline:

aver (v.) late 14c., from Old French averer "verify," from Vulgar Latin *adverare "make true, prove to be true," from Latin ad- "to" (see ad-) + verus "true" (see very). Related: Averred; averring.

avert (v.) c. 1400, from Old French avertir (12c.), "turn, direct; avert; make aware," from Vulgar Latin *advertire, from Latin avertere "to turn away, to drive away," from ab- "from, away" (see ab-) + vertere "to turn" (see versus). Related: Averted; averting.

averse (adj.) mid-15c., "turned away in mind or feeling," from Old French avers and directly from Latin aversus "turned away, turned back," past participle of avertere (see avert). Originally and usually in English in the mental sense, while avert is used in a physical sense.

aversion (n.) "a turning away from," 1590s; figurative sense of "mental attitude of repugnance" is from 1650s, from Middle French aversion and directly from Latin aversionem (nominative aversio), noun of action from past participle stem of aversus "turned away, backwards, behind, hostile," itself past participle of avertere (see avert)

As you can see, there is a reason for the formation of the words, but it isn't necessarily obvious from the English spelling. Notably, aver doesn't belong in the same group as aversion, averse, avert.


Yes, there are words in English that sound similar, but are in fact not related at all, and the similarity is just a coincidence. Other times, of course, similarity is because one word is derived from the other or they have a common root.

I don't know what your native language is. But are there not words that sound similar but have no relation to each other?

I have difficulty imagining how you could tell just from looking at two words whether similarity is significant or coincidental. Perhaps linguists have researched types of similarities and patterns and have developed rules, but I'd be hard pressed to think of any way you could look at "aver" and "aversion" and discern that the similarity was coincidental without looking up their definitions and etymologies.

So short answer: There's no easy answer. You have to know the words or look them up.

  • So, We must memorize them – Cardinal Dec 7 '15 at 15:47
  • in sharp contrast to : "suppress and suppression, radiate and radiation, mitigate and mitigation, oppose and opposition, and so on" – Cardinal Dec 7 '15 at 15:49
  • 1
    Exactly. A "contrarian" is someone who is often "contrary". But a "barbarian" is not someone who "barbers" a lot! A "theist" is one who believes in God; an "atheist" does not believe in God. But an "atom" is not someone who doesn't believe in Tom. Etc. One could play this game endlessly. Yes, you just have to learn and memorize them. What's your native language? I bet you could find examples in your native language. You probably just don't notice them most of the time because you're used to them. – Jay Dec 7 '15 at 16:12
  • "Barbarian" is derived from the Ancient Greeks perceiving foreign speech as "bar bar bar bar...." and "barber" derives from French "barbe", the word for beard. Ditto for everything Jay said. – Nihilist_Frost Dec 7 '15 at 16:32
  • By the way, I am Persian – Cardinal Dec 7 '15 at 17:11

This is a matter of vocabulary.

Some nouns are formed by adding —ion / —ation. Sometimes the spelling changes.

oppress → oppression
organise → organisation
collide → collision

The same happens with the adjectives, we can add —ness to make nouns:

sad → sadness
tired → tiredness

One mostly learns this vocab with a lot of reading or by hearing other people.

  • I know, bur "aversion" does not follow such rules – Cardinal Dec 7 '15 at 15:50
  • Because it is wholly a loan word. The t -> s happened all the way back in Latin which passed on to French (a descendant of Latin), and then borrowed as is. – Nihilist_Frost Dec 7 '15 at 16:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.