Posted by: Jack Henry | February 18, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Bankruptcy

The other day I was editing a document about bankruptcy and I thought, “Boy, does bankrupt sound like erupt.” I started wondering if the destruction caused by bankruptcy and the potential mayhem from an erupting volcano had a common history. I turned to my beloved—not my husband, Ray—my beloved Online Etymology Dictionary. This is what I found for bankrupt, rupture, erupt, and bankruptcy (edited for brevity).

bankrupt (adjective)

"in the state of one unable to pay just debts or meet obligations," 1560s, from Italian banca rotta, literally "a broken bench," from banca "moneylender’s shop," literally "bench" + rotta "broken, defeated, interrupted" from Latin rupta, fem. past participle of rumpere "to break" (see rupture).

Said to have been so called from an old custom of breaking the bench of bankrupts, but the allusion probably is figurative.

rupture (noun)

late 14c., originally medical, from Latin ruptura "the breaking (of an arm or leg), fracture," from past participle stem of rumpere "to break". Specifically as "abdominal hernia" from early 15c.

erupt (verb)

1650s, of diseases, etc., from Latin eruptus, past participle of erumpere "to break out, burst," from assimilated form of ex "out" + rumpere "to break, rupture" (see rupture). Of volcanoes, from 1770 (the Latin word was used in reference to Mount Etna). Related: Erupted; erupting.

bankruptcy (noun)
1700, "the breaking up of a business due to its inability to pay obligations," from bankrupt, "probably on the analogy of insolvency, but with -t erroneously retained in spelling, instead of being merged in the suffix …." [OED]. Figurative use from 1761. Earlier words for it (late 16c.-17c.) were bankrupting, bankruption, bankrupture, bankruptship.

Now that’s a lot rupture, eruptus, and rupta, but we can definitely see that all four words are commonly related by rumpere (to break). Now what I’d like to know is, “Why did we stop using bankruption?” That seems like a much more active word! And how about a breakout of acne? Doesn’t telling your doctor your face erumpered sound a little suaver? In any case, it’s some knowledge you can break out during the next client conference or at the bar during Trivia Night. 😊

Have a bankruptureless day!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Editing: Symitar Documentation Services

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  1. Like. Very interesting.

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