verb (used with object), trans·ferred, trans·fer·ring.
verb (used without object), trans·ferred, trans·fer·ring.
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Origin of transfer
OTHER WORDS FROM transfer
Words nearby transfer
BEHIND THE WORD
Where does transfer come from?
Transfer is an excellent example of how a little knowledge of Latin can go a long way.
Transfer entered English around 1350–40. It ultimately derives from the Latin verb trānsferre, which principally meant “to carry or bring across.” The verb is composed of two parts. The first part is trāns-, a prefix based on the adverb and preposition trāns, meaning “across, beyond, through.” The second part is ferre, a verb meaning “to bear, carry,” among many other senses. The English verb bear, as in “bearing a load,” is actually an etymological cousin to the Latin ferre.
Trāns- and ferre appear in many other English words. Let’s start with ferre. Prefer comes from the Latin praeferre, “to bear or set before” (learn more at pre–, preference). Refer comes from the Latin referre, “to bring back” (re–, reference). Infer comes from inferre, “to bring in” (in–, inference). This next origin may put a new spin on the word for you: suffer comes from sufferre, literally “to bear under,” with suf- a variant of sub- “under.” Defer and deference ultimately comes from—slight curveball here—differre, “to bear apart, carry away.” Differre is also the source of differ, different, and difference.
Now for trāns-. Trāns– was incredibly productive in Latin. That means it was used to produce many new words, especially verbs (and their related forms) that have made their way into English, including:
Does knowing that trāns- means “across, beyond, through” shed any new light on what these words mean?
Translate is another word related to transfer—and not just because they both feature the trans- prefix.
Now, English has irregular verbs: saw is the past tense of see, for instance, and bought is the past tense of buy. Latin had irregular verbs, too, as do many other languages. Without getting too technical, the verb ferre (meaning, if you’ll recall, “to carry”) formed past tenses based on tulī (“I carried”), and formed part participles based on lātus. That means translate is derived from the past participle form of transfer: trānslātus, literally “carried across,” as in a text that has been copied over.
Isn’t it wild how so many words are related? Yep, relate—along with relationship, relation, and many other words—comes from the past participle form of referre (“to carry back,” source of refer), which was relātus.
Did you know ... ?
We are not done with Latin verb ferre (“to bear, carry”) yet! The verb is also the source of –fer, a combining form meaning “that which carries” the thing specified by the initial element, used in the formation of compound words—like an aquifer carries water (the Latin aqua means “water”). Other familiar examples include conifer and crucifer.
The form -fer is closely related to -ferous, a combining form meaning “bearing,” “producing,” “yielding,” “containing,” and “conveying,” also used in the formation of compound words, especially in science. There are many examples, including:
Example sentences from the Web for transfer
Parents who want to transfer custody of a child to someone other than a relative must seek permission from a judge.
“I ran for my life,” said Tenayo, who is a home attendant for an autistic resident, but wants to transfer because of the crime.
He suggested I needed mental help, and offered to help me transfer to another college.I Was Gang Raped at a UVA Frat 30 Years Ago, and No One Did Anything|Liz Seccuro|December 16, 2014|DAILY BEAST
All the junkies try to transfer to them, for the abundance of morphine.
Jasmin helps her transfer in and out of her wheelchair, get dressed, and bathe.
Having completed the transfer, Ned counted the surplus left in the bag, and found it to be about 500 pounds.The Golden Dream|R.M. Ballantyne
Your letter telling of transfer to the Moro Province has just come.Terry|Charles Goff Thomson
During the rule of the next archbishop, Jaenbert, an attempt was made to transfer the primacy from Canterbury.The Cathedral Church of Canterbury [2nd ed.].|Hartley Withers
Husbands expected to follow their wives and join them either in New York or by transfer in mid-ocean from steamer to steamer.The Loss of the SS. Titanic|Lawrence Beesley
The sounders were clicking monotonously when the trick man turned to the relief operator who was checking Darby's transfer sheet.Empire Builders|Francis Lynde
British Dictionary definitions for transfer
verb (trænsˈfɜː) -fers, -ferring or -ferred
- a person or thing that transfers or is transferred
- (as modifier)a transfer student
- the act of transferring the title of ownership to shares or registered bonds in the books of the issuing enterprise
- (as modifier)transfer deed; transfer form