The word emancipate was first used by Francis Bacon in his influential 1605 book The Advancement of Learning. In using it, he was discussing intellectual freedom, but by the late 1600s it began to refer to freedom from religious persecution, and in 1776 it was attested as meaning "a government action freeing slaves". Emancipate was taken from Latin emancipatus, a conjugation of the verb emancipare, which generally meant "to give up authority" but could also have to do with setting a child free. The prefix ex- (meaning "out"; from PIE eghs) is lurking just out of sight, but once that's chipped away we are left with the root manceps, which held a definition of "transfer". The literal meaning of that, "to take in hand", is revealed when we separate manceps into manus, meaning "hand", and capere, meaning "take". Manus comes from Proto-Indo-European man (also "hand") and capere is from PIE kap, "to grasp".
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.