The Creative Exploration of Language

Monthly Archives: February 2013


I have always seen perdition as a poetic and romantic word, as if I instincually understood that it was a word which has two levels of meaning, both of which are interesting.  The word is a variation on the Old French perdiciun, derived from the Latin perditionem, which means “destruction” or “ruin”.  However, perdition carries with it special connotations that are intriguing.

The first meaning of perdition is the simplistic, religious one, where it acts as a synonym for “hell”.  While I have less affection for this meaning because in this context it is simply replacing an English word, I still can’t help but be somewhat taken in by the borrowed glamour of its more figurative and poetic meaning as a state of total and hopeless ruination.  What I find so compelling about the word is that the condition implied is ongoing, as if one is beyond hope or help, forever lost.  It is easy to see why the word became associated, presumably in medieval or early modern times, with the Christian concept of hell, a place of eternal suffering.

A further layer of meaning is uncovered if one looks further into the Latin perditio.  As it turns out, it derives from the base verb perdere.  When one breaks down the parts of the Latin root perditio, which are per-, which means “away”, and –dare, which means “to give” or “to put”, a sense of culpability, of wastefulness, is attached to the word.

Perdition can then be understood as a state of ongoing and utter ruination brought upon oneself by poor choices and it works equally well in religious and secular terms.  I think that the word would be even more interesting if used in contexts that highlight or reveal this sense.