In legal contexts, prima facie refers to an accusatory instrument which provides enough evidence to prove a fact. The term is obviously Latin, but, interestingly enough, it translates to "at first appearance". This is because it should be obvious enough upon initial examination that the evidence can support a case. Prima, as one can guess, means "first" in this context (and, through Proto-Italic, is reconstructed as being from Proto-Indo-European preh, "before; not much semantic change there). Facie carries a definition more like "shape" or "figure" than "appearance". It is a conjugation of facies, which is also the etymon of the English word face, through Old French face. Ultimately, most etymologists agree that this derives from Proto-Indo-European deh, which meant "to put", which is very loosely connected to "shape" but does have a slight observable correlation. Ever since prima facie was introduced to English law around the 1300s, its usage has steadily increased until a bit of a plateau in the 1900s.
Adam Aleksic, a freshman studying linguistics at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He has disturbing interests in words, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law, and he loves writing about himself in the third person.
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