“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Writing is a tough job. It’s easy to get lost in our thoughts. Often we mix up “too” for “two,” or we write “hear” when we intended to write “here.” Even the best writers make these slip-ups. Don’t worry too much about them while you’re writing. If you commonly confuse words, I suggest you print it out and read your writing on a printed page. It helps you catch more errors and is more efficient.
Today’s focus is quit vs. quite vs. quiet. All of these words have been in the English language 800-1,000 years. What makes etymology interesting, however, is that definitions can be added and/or changed as time passes. Words can change their appearance and how they are pronounced. While I don’t plan to focus too much on pronunciations (because they change with regions around the world), let’s delve into each word and explore its etymological roots.
The adjective meaning of quit derived from the Old French word quitte in 12C. It means to be free, clear and at liberty. The Old French version of quit derived from the Latin word quietus, which in Medieval Latin means to be free of war or debts. Likewise, it means to be calm and resting.
Quit, as a verb, also originates from Old French. In this sense, it derives from quiter to mean one establishes one’s innocence. It’s defined as letting go of someone/thing, being at liberty, discharged or unmarried. In the 13C, we get an alternate verb definition which means to take revenge or to answer. And, in 14C the word quit means to acquit or to find not guilty. Likewise, the 14C meaning defines quit as one stops doing something.
It’s not until the 15C when we get quitted or quitting.
Quiet is a word that is primitive to the early 14C. It’s a close relative of quit and quite, in fact, because quiet is a Middle English adverbial of both words. It means free and clean; although, the original meaning was thoroughly.
Quiet was first brought to English in the 13C as a noun, meaning freedom from disturbance or conflict. It calmness or stillness, originating from the Old French word quiete. Quiete means to rest and be still, but this word can be traced further back still. It has roots in Latin, deriving from the word quies. In the late 14C, the noun became defined as inactivity or resting.
As an adjective, quiet means to be peaceful or to be restful. It comes from the Old French word quiete, which derives from the Latin word quietus. In this sense, the word meant (and still does mean today) to be at rest and free from exertion. It wasn’t until around the 1570s when this adjective would become an adverb, giving us quietly and quietness.
Finally, quiet as a verb arrived in the 14C. It means to subdue or lesson and was borrowed from the Latin word quietare. The word changed around mid-15-C, meaning to make someone/thing silent or to be quiet.
The way I remember these words is this: Letters either disappear or are moved around. In quite and quiet, for instance, the e just changes places with the t. However, in quit the e is an absentee. I hope that helps!