Base x2

Does anyone know how/why/if the two meanings of “base” are related?

  1. Base, the oposite of Acid
  2. Base, foundation or starting point

Sorry this has been bothering me for some time. thanks for your thoughts.

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You might also ask why these two words are apparently related:

<tt>[ul][li]Cow: A bovine animal[/li][li]Cow: To cause to back down[/ul]</tt>[/li]
Just because two words are spelled the same doesn’t mean that they have the same etymology.

Since when did base only have 2 meanings? The dictionary I am looking at has 14. Some are tangents off of foundation, but it is still more than two.

I doubt there has to be a connection just because a word is spelled the same and has multiple meanings.

Well, shut my mouth. It’s also illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling.

perhaps my question was poorly worded… I was not claiming there were only two menaings of base.

If the various meanings are unrelated, I would also be interested in their separate histories. thanks all.

The Oxford English Dictionary, in Volume I, beginning on Page 977, and continuing for seven columns, into page 979 lists eleven words spelled ** base ** some with as many as 17 separate usages. The material exceeds the reasonable amount of data to expect in a casual reply. I recommend the public library, which undoubtedly has a copy. The on line version is rather expensive, and cut and past from it would violate their copyright, and give uncle Cecil heartburn.

<p algn=“center”>Tris</p>

The question asked how, why and if the meanings were related, Timothy, it did not state that they were, so your smugness is wildly misplaced.

I have no idea. Can’t find out for the life of me. However, dictionaries do place the two meanings (and many others) under the same etymology - which is not the case for the two "cow"s.


It’s quite possible they are. The measure of acidity is a measure of the concentration of positive ions. When something is basic it has more negative ions than positive.

So it’s possible that base was taken to mean the starting point. i.e. A zero concentration of positive ions. This makes more sense if you know that even neutral water doesn’t really ever have zero concentration. It has both + and - ions so that the base concentration of ions is more accurate than saying it has zero ions.

From there it could have come to mean anything that not only doesn’t have positive ions but actually has negative ones.

Maybe lye, used in making soap, was one of the first recognized (chamical) bases and it was called a ‘base’ simply because it was what you started with in making soap. And then again, maybe I’m just lying.

Here are the “Basic Instructions”:

Ray (You want a better explanation. No soap; you ain’t gettin’ it.)