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I am even more befuddled by the two separate « facture »'s on CNRTL. Which applies? They both look correct! FACTURE1 ( « manière dont une œuvre est composée ») stems from

Empr. au lat. impérial factura « façon, fabrication », cf. l'a. fr. faiture « action de faire, création, production » au xiie-xvies.

FACTURE2 refers to

1540 lettre de facture (Ordonn. ds Rec. gén. des anc. lois fr., éd. Isambert, Decrusy, Armet, t. XII, p. 688). Dér. du rad. de facteur* (agent commercial); suff. -ure*.

'factor' means commercial agent in English too, but not an invoice! English 'factor' hails from

French facteur "agent, representative" (Old French factor, faitor "doer, author, creator"), from Latin factor "doer, maker, performer," in Medieval Latin, "agent," agent noun from past participle stem of facere "to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").

Why do these ideas relate?

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  • I guess they relate by their common ancestor, facere = to do/make. A "facture" is the act of making but also a document produced by a maker ("facteur"). Oct 11, 2022 at 11:24
  • facteur is also a mailman :)
    – Roger V.
    Oct 12, 2022 at 7:47

1 Answer 1

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In the old times a facteur (or old French faitor, literally "doer", cognates with faiseur) used to create things, possibly with their hands, i.e. to manufacture them or more generally someone who "do" things. That leaves a wide range of interpretations. One of the meanings of facteur was "God", another one was "criminal" (modern French: malfaiteur).

The person selling or delivering the goods was also named facteur by metonymy. This gave the main meaning of facteur in modern French: postman. The other one is archaic.

Similarily, facture used to be what the facteur made or the way they made it. Facteur also gave another facture that means the documents attached to a shipment detailing its contents and at least nowadays, the price of each item.

        enter image description here

        Le corps du droict françois, 1600

The first meaning is not lost but is now literary, much rarer outside idioms like de bonne facture (of good workmanship).

The old French word facture was highly polysemic due to its root that means to make. See its Anglo-Norman entry. Interestingly, facture gave the English "feature" with a shift in meaning.

A similar shift exists with the English "invoice" that comes from the French envoi (Les envoys: the things being sent) that were both the goods and their bill, the latter being what English eventually kept.

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    Thanks! Can you please elaborate on "Similarily, facture used to be what the facteur made or the way they made it, then shifted to mean the bill attached to it."? Can you write more detail on this shift?
    – user31412
    Oct 11, 2022 at 23:36
  • That was more a parallel evolution that a shift in meaning. Answer updated.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 12, 2022 at 0:43
  • Maybe Facture is a diminutive for Proof of Facture ?
    – Kii
    Oct 12, 2022 at 11:30
  • @Kii Close: facture comes from lettre de facture.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 12, 2022 at 15:13

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