The immediate association people make with the word arrest is that of "to detain", but something can also be arresting, as in it makes you stop and look at it. You may not have thought about it, but the second definition has been around much longer: somebody who is arrested is stopped, just as you would be, more figuratively. It all comes from Old French arester, meaning "to stay" or "stop", and as Latin arrestare, it could also mean "detain". See the connection to both of the modern denotations? Here, we can break off the prefix ad- ("to", from Proto-Indo-European hed, "near"), leaving us with the root restare, or "to stand firm" (less "stopping" and more "not moving" at this point). There's a hidden second prefix, re-, meaning "backwards" and coming from PIE wre, "again", and what's remaining is stare, "to stand" (from PIE sta, also "stand". Usage of the word arrest in literature increased up to the 1860s, but has since been on a slight decrease. We won't lose the word for a long time, because of the legal seizure meaning, but we might lose the older definition as the newer one forces it out.
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 University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd