Most non-musicians don't know the word syncopate. It means "to change the beats in music" and is not very crucial to daily life. However, its etymology is fascinating. Originally, it only referred to words, and the stressing of syllables, but later on the musical definition originated. Before even that, syncopate came through Medieval Latin as syncopatus and regular Latin as syncope, "contraction of a word". Here it gets interesting: as the word traces back to Greek (synkoptein, "to cut up") it breaks up into two smaller words: the prefix syn- "together" and the root koptein, "cut off" (also the root of the word comma). Syn- comes from the Proto-Indo-European term ksun, or "with" and koptein traces back to the PIE word for "strike", kop. The definition of syncopate therefore hasn't changed much over time; its roots of "with strike" still make sense. I later found out that Serbian has a word sinkopa; this is connected to syncopate through Latin.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.