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The Origin of 'Quarantine'
The intersection of Italian and French influences also contributed to the introduction of the word quarantine in English. Initially, the French word quarantaine (“about forty”) was borrowed in the late 1400s with the meaning “a period of forty days,” yet another biblical reference, originally referring to the period of time Jesus spent fasting in the desert. It came to have a broader application to a period of forty days that had religious significance, such as penance, or the delay of implementation of a legal agreement. Then, in the early 1600s, the meaning “isolation of a ship to protect the port city from potential disease” began to be used in English, from the Italian word quarantena, which had been used in this way since the 14th century. Since the French form of this cognate word was already in use (indeed, a variant form was the more French-looking quarantain), the new “isolation as protection from disease” sense became a new use of the existing word quarantine. It was now an English word based on French spelling with an Italian definition and Latin roots.**
**“Quarantine and Isolation: Explaining the Difference.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Accessed April 1, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/quarantine-and-isolation-difference.
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