I seek advice for elucidating How did I misunderstand the Latin 'consisto' in interpreting 'X consists in Y'? here, instead of in comments. I paraphrase my problem: I am trying to ask how the Latin verb 'consisto' and any possible semantic shifts, explain why 1 means 3 (and NOT 4 as I (wrongly) interpret it to). Please reference the original question to see the referents of the integers that I do not reproduce to avoid needing to update 2 posts.

My Answers to the 6 questions below:

  1. I wish to understand the English phrase "X consists in Y", with the help of the Latin verb consistere; I am assuming a semantic connection between the 2.

  2. Example: Milk consists in (Vitamin B12). By definition, this means: Milk features B12.

But my interpretation reverses the order: Milk consists in B12. ↔ Milk stands in B12. ↔ B12 features Milk. So should not 'consist in' mean my interpretation instead?

  1. Yes, I know of the differences between English and Latin syntax; but some Latin(ate) verbs do retain the morphology and syntax when borrowed by English. So what explains the difference here? Semantically, does the Latin 'consistit' differ from the English 'consist'? If so, how?

My 4 in the picture in the question: Because the Latin consistere means 'stand', I interpret the English 'consist' to mean 'stand'. But this analogy may be false, as you wrote: is it?

  1. I pursue not 'well-documented' semantic shifts: I can happily accept conjectures or opinions.

  2. A semantic shift appears to have occured somewhere, but not preceisely where, from the Latin consistere, to the English use of the phrase 'consist in'.

  3. E.g. https://english.stackexchange.com/a/39099/50720, https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/12427/5306.

  • 1
    Sorry for taking so long. I edited, undeleted, opened and upvoted your question at main. Feel free to re-edit.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


I decided to put the question on hold as it was unclear to me. Judging by other reactions (downvotes and close votes but no answers or comments about the thing you ask about) other users are puzzled, too. I wanted to help you clarify the question, but I did not see how. I'm glad that putting the question on hold lead to this meta question; any discussion here can help all users with similar questions in the future1.

Here are some points I don't understand:

  1. What language is the question about? Do you want to interpret the English phrase "X consists in Y"? Or some Latin phrase using the verb consistere? Are you trying to understand the English verb "to consist" with the help of the Latin verb consistere, the other way around, or something else?
  2. What would be an example situation that confuses you? Give an example and explain your problem in terms of that. Using concrete examples (like "a kennel consists in dogs" and "dogs consist in a kennel") will often get the point across.
  3. In Latin consistere might mean something like "stand". But that does not imply that "X stands in Y" and X consistit in Y mean the same thing. English and Latin syntax are different. The underlying problem seems to be a false analyogy between English and Latin. I do not understand your point 4 and especially how it gives the connection 1->5. Can you explain point 4, maybe with examples?
  4. Are we likely to have a well documented semantic shift at all? I have rarely seen good etymological descriptions given in terms of semantic shifts. Of course it is fine to ask for a semantic shift even if it is unlikely. I am just unsure if that is a good way to formulate questions.
  5. Where is the semantic shift you ask about? Is it something that happened when loaning from Latin to French or English? Or something that happened withing Latin at some point in time?
  6. What kind of an answer are you looking for? I have no idea what a good answer to your question could be.

I should stress that these are my views and I may have misinterpreted things. Others might see your questions in a different light. And of course, other users and other moderators are welcome to vote to reopen the question2 if they disagree with my judgement. I am willing to change my opinion and vote to reopen if the question is clarified significantly.

I don't meant to be harsh. I just hope you can clarify your question and help us help you.

1 And in the past. I think some other questions of yours suffer from similar problems. However, I this answer is about that one particular question only.

2 There is currently one vote to reopen.

  • Thank you for your sincere efforts to help by questioning, to which I have replied in the OP.
    – user37
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 20:07
  • @Canada-Area51Proposal, thank you! The answers you posted in the question clarify the question significantly. I hope others will offer their opinions as well.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 21:05
  • My pleasure. Please feel free to edit my original question for clarity.
    – user37
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 21:08
  • @Canada-Area51Proposal, I will consider doing so later on. I first want to see what others have to say on the matter.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 21:14

Indeed the question is based on a false premise: a misunderstanding of the English phrase "consist in". I think this is a case where an error leads to insight, which would likely not be explored if we nipped the error in the bud. I just posted an answer that compares Latin consistere and English consist directly, explaining how they're the same and how they're different.

In general, I think "How did I misunderstand?" is a great question, though often hard to answer. Any answer requires a certain amount of guesswork about the what knowledge the questioner lacked, which would have enabled him or her to ask a more specific question.

Hopefully we'll soon find out if this is the kind of answer that Laurentius (the OP) was looking for.

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