I know that objective stands for impartial aka unbiased whereas an objection means a protest, an opposition. I do not see how opposition is related to impartial unbiasnes. How did the word split into two meanings?

  • Can you include an example sentence that shows opposition is related to impartial unbiasedness?
    – user24743
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 8:31
  • @Rathony I did not ask about shared history of these meanings. I have asked how did one word split into two different meanings. You have object to mean opposition and object to mean unbiasedness. I think it was obvious from my question. I do not understand what is the point to mislead people with editing question. You first clarify what is asked and edit afterwards, not vice verse. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 10:08
  • Though spelled the same-ish, they seem to come from two different roots. Maybe this will help for objective (see adj) and also here; and for objection. Interesting question, never would have thought of it that way. Objection seems to come from a French derivation, maybe because, well, they're French
    – Peter
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 11:02
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because OP is looking for etymology and maybe this question should be on a different site
    – Peter
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 12:49
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    @Jim - I think what's being asked is this: Why do two words with the same root appear to be so unrelated in meaning?
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


"Object" comes from Latin. The original literal meaning is ob- "against" ject "throw". Related words in English are obverse "turned against (or to face) you", obtrude "shoved against", and eject "thrown out", reject "thrown back". To object is literally to throw something against something else, like an argument at something you oppose.

Opposition and protest are clearly the more obvious definitions here. op- position is actually related, it means "to place against." Protest is originally something like "to argue for", which is often accomplished by arguing against something else. Or possibly it meant "to argue about", and always had a similar meaning.

The other meaning is trickier to figure out. "Object" as a noun must have originally been the thing that was thrown against something else. This thing must be substantial, if the fact it's being thrown is remarkable. The object doesn't care what it's being thrown at, it will carry the same force regardless. Eventually arguments were considered to be about the objects themselves, and not what was being objected to. The things at the center of an argument must be well defined and impartial, and these objects will be well considered.

At some point, object became a sort of opposite to subject, which is "to throw under, to throw at the feet of." Subject, like object, came to mean the things that were thrown or controlled.

Then you start to see things like the subject and objects of a sentence. The subject is the thing controlled or defined by the sentence, and the objects are what the sentence uses. Or, the main definition: the subject is the self, thrown under all the colored emotions, misconceptions, and biases, and the objects are the external factors, thrown against your biases and other subjectivities to test them. I believe this is where the "impartial" definition starts.

On a final note: as a native speaker, I had never actually considered that object the noun and object the verb were originally one word, simply because ob-ject and ob-ject sound different in a lot of subtle ways. Once you asked, it was obvious to me that they were, and then I researched and I found out that, unlike how I thought initially, the original definition was closer to "protest" than to "thing". I do this a lot, actually, if you have any other questions like this I'll be sure to answer them, if you give me a little time. It might be a better topic for ELU than ELL, though.

  • Please correct me if I am wrong: you cover the subject with the object like I cover one argument with another? You cover one argument with another to beat it. So, you have a pile of cards in the end where upper beats what immediately under it. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 19:25

The path to opposition, protest is clear:

Latin objectio: Middle English objecciǒun (n.) Also objectioun, objeccoun

But how objectivus (Fr. objectif) came to mean "unbiased, based not on opinion but on fact" is more convoluted.

  1. Of or pertaining to an object.
  2. (Metaph.) Of or pertaining to an object ; contained in, or having the nature or position of, an object ; outward ; external ; extrinsic; an epithet applied to whatever is exterior to the mind, or which is simply an object of thought or feeling, and opposed to subjective. In the Middle Ages, subject meant substance, and has this sense in Descartes and Spinoza ; sometimes, also, in Reid.

Subjective is used by William of Occam to denote that which exists independent of mind ; objective, what is formed by the mind. This shows what is meant by realitas objectiva in Descartes. Kant and Fichte have inverted the meanings. Subject, with them, is the mind which knows ; object, that which is known : subjective, the varying conditions of the knowing mind ; objective, that which is in the constant nature of the thing known. Trendelenburg.

Objective means that which belongs to, or proceeds from, the object known, and not from the subject knowing, and thus denotes what is real, in opposition to that which is ideal — what exists in nature, in contrast to what exists merely in the thought of the individual. Sir W. Hamilton.

Objective has come to mean that which has independent existence or authority, apart from our experience or thought. Thus, moral law is said to have objective authority, that is, authority belonging to itself, and not drawn from anything in our nature. Calderwood (Fleming's Vocabulary).

From Websters International Dictionary of the English Language (1898).

  • I understand that there are two meanings. I just do not understand how saying that explains this fact. You may say that objective and an objection are two different words and thus mean different things, as you do with objectio and objectivus. I do not see how replacement objection -> objection and objective -> objectivus makes things more clear. I am asking about the roots of objectio and objectivus. Are you saying that they do not come from the same root or what? Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 13:23
  • I'm saying that the meaning "to be unbiased, to be referring to an external fact undistorted by subjective opinion" arose in academic Latin. The word was imported into English already having that meaning.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 13:54

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