Bent

The noun “bend” was also briefly used, beginning in the 16th century, to mean “a turn of mind or inclination,” just as we use “bent” today, but that sense of “bend” eventually became obsolete and “bent” took over its job. The reasons “bent” won out over “bend” in meaning “inclination” are a bit hazy, but it seems that “bent” in this sense with its terminal “t” was formed on the model of other English nouns drawn from verbs of Latin or French origin, e.g., “to descend” produced the noun “descent,” “extend” gave us “extent,” etc.

So there’s really no compelling logical reason why we use “bent” for “inclination” instead of “bend.” That’s just the way it turned out, and today we speak of a politician’s larcenous “bent” as he “bends” the ethical rules.

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2 comments on this post.
  1. graham chambers:

    This must explain also why various knots, as learned in the Boy Scouts, are called “bends”, as in “Sheet Bend” or “Fisherman’s Bend.”

  2. Mr Funicular:

    Actually, knots are purely decorative, such as the “Turk’s Head knot” you might find in the hands of a campagnologist. A knot in a rope does not attach to anything, whereas ‘bends’ and ‘hitches’ are the practical actions we do every day with strings and things … and it would seem that bending my mind to a problem would have far more to do with ‘latching on to it’, than ‘aiming at it’ as in the bow example.

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