If the word reckless is a synonym for "careless", what does reck mean? Let's find out! Reckless can be traced through several alterations in the earlier forms of English, including rechless, retchless, rekles, rekeles, and receleas, but ultimately derives from the Old English word reccileas, which was a combination of reccan "to care" and the archaic form of the suffix -less. Since the reck- is what we're after, let's leave -less for a later post. Reccan, deriving from recan, goes back to Proto-Germanic, as many multi-consonant hard-sound-ending short words do. In this case, it stems from the West Germanic word rokjan, from the Proto-Germanic word rokja, still "to care for". This in turn can be followed to the Proto-Indo-European word meaning "help", reg. However, the legacy of its etymon reck has faded into antiquity since the sixteenth century; it died out, as all words will in the end. Since we are without the term, it may be said that we are reck-less.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
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