THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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DESIRE, in popular usage, a term for a wishing or longing for something which one has not got. For its technical use see Psychology. The word is derived through the French from Lat. desiderare, to long or wish for, to miss. The substantive desiderium has the special meaning of desire for something one has once possessed but lost, hence regret or grief. The usual explanation of the word is to connect it with sidus, star, as in considerare, to examine the stars with attention, hence, to look closely at. If this is so, the history of the transition in meaning is unknown. J. B. Greenough (Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, i. 96) has suggested that the word is a military slang term. According to this theory desiderare meant originally to miss a soldier from the ranks at roll-call, the root being that seen in sedere, to sit, sedes, seat, place, &c.
Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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