This is a word that in invading our homes through the news and social media. I, myself, have even said it several times in the last 48 hours. When I make posts about language, I fear the response will be that I am told I am being divisive when I am challenging the status quo. It is not my intension, but sometimes that is the result. My intension is to create critical thinking, for someone to really evaluate what they know or teach, as sometimes science makes us rethink what we have always thought to be the way things are.
So, divisive. It is related to <division>, so one might suspect that the Latin root “videre” means to separate. The base is <vise> which has a twin <vide>. (Please note that I said they are bases.) Twin bases happen in Latin all the time. This is why we divide a division problem. <Divide> and <division> relate to separating. The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root is *weidh “separate.” Etymological relatives include <with> and <widow>.
As I was studying this word, I really wanted to put other words in this matrix (word family) that has the same surface spelling, like <vision> and <evident>. The bases of <vision> is <vise> and the base of <evident> is <vide>, which again are twin base elements. Yet, the denotation of the <vise/vide> base have to do with “see.” Looking deeper, the Latin root is vidēre. While this root may look like the same surface spelling, the diacritical above the <e> is an important Latin distinction. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root of vidēre is *weid “to see”. Since the two PIE roots are different, that means that these bases (the one to separate and the one to see) are not cognate. This is a perfect example that words that are included in a matrix need to pass both the morphological and etymological tests. Etymological relatives include <voila> and <au revoir>.
I cannot leave this discussion with discussing <indivisible> which is in our pledge of allegiance in America. This is the hardest word for students to recite when learning the pledge of allegiance. Many recite it as <invisible> which has the <vise> base of “see,” with a similar surface base spelling but a completely different meaning. It can create some laughs, but imagine if kids were taught the pledge with a little word study? They would understand the word and be able to pronounce proudly as well. With everything political going on, we have become rather divisive as a nation. Although that changes when we encounter misfortune. We come together in crises, which was seen in the Hurricanes, the Las Vegas shootings and the CA wildfires. In those times we are humans with no other classification. We are indivisible.