I was just reading a news article when I came across the word jurisdiction. Then I stopped for a moment, looked at it funnily, and immediately realized its wonderful etymology. I think I'll keep you in suspense for a few sentences, however. First adopted in the mid-1300s, it took the forms of variants such as juridiction, jurediction, and jurisdiccioun in those early days. There were several of these spin-offs, but they all came from the Old French word juridicion, which in turn derived from Latin iurisdictionem (the i is pronounced like a j). Here's the origin I guessed at: iurisdictionem is a combination of iuris, meaning "law", and dictionem, meaning "decree" or "saying". This combined meaning of "legal decree" fits pretty well with the modern meaning of "the power to make judgments". Iuris, which may be simplified to ius, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction hey (defined as "vital force" or life"), through Proto-Italic jowos. Dictionem, which may be simplified to the verb dicere, likewise hails from Proto-Indo-European, through Proto-Italic, in this case from the word deykti, meaning "to point out". So, as far back as possible, a jurisdiction is just "pointing out life".
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.