Welcome to Ask the Editor. I'm Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster.
歡迎來到〈問問編輯〉。我是 Peter Sokolowski，韋氏字典的特約編輯。
The most looked-up abbreviations in our online dictionary are "i.e." and "e.g.," probably for the simple reason that they are so often confused for one another. Both of these are abbreviations of Latin expressions.
"I.e." stands for "id est," which means "that is" in Latin. It introduces a rewording or a clarification of a statement that has just been made or of a word that has just been used, such as "The cough may last for a short period of time—i.e., three to five days."
"E.g." stands for "exempli gratia" in Latin, which means "for example." It introduces one or more examples that illustrate something stated, such as "Submit a sample of academic writing—e.g., a dissertation chapter."
Because their usage can seem similar, these abbreviations are often confused. Just remember that "i.e." and "that is" both share an "i" and that "example" and "e.g." both share an "e." You can also try substituting the English for the abbreviation. "The cough may last for a short period of time—that is, three to five days." "Submit a sample of academic writing—for example, a dissertation chapter."
Even though English is a Germanic language, we owe a huge debt to Latin. You don't need to be an MD or have any PhD on your CV to see that English has borrowed pounds of words from Latin. We use Latin day and night, a.m. and p.m. And without it, we'd have to say RIP to huge swaths of English.
PS: Latin isn't the only language to have an impact on English. There's French, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, etc. But Latin is foundational, QED.
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