How did « tendre, faire effort » semantically shift to mean to repimand/reprimander? What semantic notions underlie them?

Doubtless, TENDING, TENDERING, or EXTENDING (« tendre ») or making an effort ≠ rebuke. Hagglers or negotiators commonly tender or extend offers to each other, whilst making efforts to minimize their costs. But they aren't scolding each other! If they started to rebuke each other, the deal may collapse and they'll walk away from each other, disliking the other party!

TANCER : Définition de TANCER

Étymol. et Hist. 1. Ca 1100 tencier a aucun « injurier, outrager quelqu'un » (Roland, éd. J. Bédier, 2581); ca 1170 tancier [ms. 1erquart xiiies.] (Chrétien de Troyes, Erec, éd. M. Roques, 2582); 2. 2emoit. xiiies. trans. tenchier « injurier, gronder, réprimander » (Gaufrey, 53 ds T.-L.); 1remoit. xives. id. (Jean de Condé, Du clerc qui fu repus deriere l'Escrin ds Rec. gén. fabliaux, éd. A. de Montaiglon et G. Raynaud, t. 4, p. 50). Du lat. vulg. *tentiare, formé sur tentus, part. passé de tendere « tendre, faire effort ». Fréq. abs. littér.: 51.

Larousse's etymology is merely one line, and too gruff! Please expound it.

(latin populaire *tentiare, du latin classique tendere, tendre contre)

  • 3
    I think you are misreading the whole thing. It doesn't say the French word tendre has evolved at some time or other into meaning tancer. All it says is that in Latin tendre meant faire un effort, so it really needs looking into the meaning of tendre in Latin. You can ask the question on Latin. Nevertheless I find it easy to understand that when one makes an effort, some sort of struggle takes place and from the idea of struggle one shifts to quarrel and than to scolding.
    – None
    Nov 7, 2021 at 13:38
  • @Simon I was not saying tendre meant faire un effort. Was saying Latin tendere meant French « faire un effort » (I mispelt the Latin, could be confusing) I am absolutely sure of that. Info from Dictionnaire historique de la langue française : French « Tendre » comes from Latin tendere... il est spécialement employé dans la langue militaire avec le sens de faire un effort. French « tancer » can be traced back to tendere « faire effort » d'où « combattre lutter » evolved to tentiare in Vulgar Latin, par suite tentiare a pris le sens de « quereller » puis de « réprimander ».
    – None
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:03
  • [suite] It's quite straightforward but FL is not the the place to discuss, should be on Latin. And FL is not the place either to discuss OP's confusion on the various meanings of English "tender/tending". Sorry for the mixture of French & English. Was summing up info from French and thinking both languages at the same time.
    – None
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:06
  • @Simon They know the meaning of both words in French since they write : "For tancer, how did « tendre, faire effort » semantically appertain "to scold, rebuke"?" I gather from the rather confused development that follows that they want to know how the same Latin word can have resulted to 2 French words that have nowadays different meanings. I'm not saying it's straightforward to them, of course it isn't, but it is when we follow Classical Latin tendere to Vulgar Latin tentiare. That's the answer (to be developed) to their question and they'll get a better one on Latin SE.
    – None
    Nov 8, 2021 at 21:31
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Simon
    Nov 8, 2021 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


The verb tender in English is only a very faint remain of the French verb tendre. The latter can mean stretch, extend, tighten, hand/present (verb, give or bestow), be tense and other related ideas. Let's take a couple of examples from Larousse:

  • Tendre une corde (tighten/extend a rope)
  • Elle tendit les bras vers moi (she stretched her arms towards me)
  • Tendre le plat à un invité (hand/present the dish to a guest) [this is figurative, you stretch your arms to hand the dish]

The English verb is close to the third example, the image of stretching your arms to present something. The main thing to notice here is that all the concepts involve some kind of effort, force or tension.

Du lat. vulg. *tentiare, formé sur tentus, part. passé de tendere « tendre, faire effort ».

The participe passé of tendre is tendu and in this form, it often means "be tense". From the same dictionary:

Produire un état de tension, d'hostilité, de conflit entre des personnes (produce a state of tension, hostility and conflict [...]): La discussion avait tendu l'atmosphère.

I don't know Latin and I can't give the definitions of the Latin words, but based on the French word, I can easily imagine how it evolved to mean scold or rebuke. It could be interesting to know what the intermediate vulgar Latin word tentiare means to get a more detailed understanding of the evolution, but this is a question for the Latin forum.

Etymology of tense, notice how they used stretch in this context for tendere:

[...] from Latin tensus, past participle of tendere "to stretch, extend," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch." Figurative sense of "in a state of nervous tension" is first recorded 1821.

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