Terminators: Wordplays for Ideas &
The Burden of Proof
March 31, 1997
Proof, prove, proven and probable are powerful ideas connected with
The "burden of proof" comes from the Latin phrase onus
Probandi comes from the Lating verb probare meaning
"to test, approve, prove" from probus meaning "good, honest."
For experimental scientists and engineers, the connotation of "to
prove" is "to test."
Try substituting the word "test" when you hear or see the word
"How do you prove that?" becomes "How do you test that?"
"The exception proves the rule" becomes "The exception tests the
Here are words rooted in probare:
proof (as in proofread)
proof (as in 80 proof)
disprove (to prove to be false or wrong)
probe (to examine or test in great detail; or a tool used for such
probable (to be testable, or to be likely)
Some words that are similar but that do not originate with
Notice that in going from ancient to classical to modern languages,
occasionally there is a shift in spelling (and possibly in
pronunciation) from p or b to v to f. This string of probare words is
a good example.
Another is pater -- vater -- father.
Sources: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition;
Chambers Murray Latin-English Dictionary by Sir William Smith and Sir