In Ancient Rome, a dictator was a consul granted temporary powers in times of war. It was a fair extension of the powers of a duly elected official, and didn't carry the harsh or permanent connotations of modern usages. Such stigmas are because of Julius Caesar, who got his dictatorship while not in a state of emergency, and he got it for life. Today, we equate it with similar situations, like that in Equatorial Guinea or North Korea. Anyway, the word dictator comes from Latin dictare, or "to prescribe" (yes, the root of dictate through Latin dictatus) because the Senate would prescribe emergency measures, and because "prescribe" is kinda synonymic with "talk" it all comes from dicere, "to speak". This all traces to (see the post on valedictorian) Proto-Italic deiko, from Proto-Indo-European deik ("to point out")
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior 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.