Mass in nature can contract, you can contract a sickness, and in law you sign a contract. All these meanings come together, verb and noun (you might even say they contract), to a single Latin word: contractum, which meant "to bring together" (this makes the most sense for the first definition, but you also bring together an agreement in legalese and bring together diseases) and came from the verb contrahere, with the same meaning but verbified a bit. From here we can eliminate the obvious prefix con-, which exists in a myriad of words today and means "with", or "together" in this instance. The remaining root is the word trahere, "to pull" (since something brought together is often pulled). Quick note to farmers: trahere is also the etymon of a tract of land through Latin tractus ("space") and the etymon of tractor through Latin tractor ("something that pulls"). Anyway, this whole verb comes from Proto-Indo-European tragh, which meant "to drag" and is the end of our quest. Speaking of quests, especially five-year ones, a tractor beam in Star Trek "pulls" other spaceships. TEXT-TO-TEXT CONNECTION.
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.