From Latin affluere ‘flow towards’, affluent was originally used to describe water either flowing towards a place or flowing freely without any restriction. It later came to mean ‘abundant’ and then ‘wealthy’, a meaning which dates from the mid 18th century. Related words, all based on Latin fluere ‘to flow’ are fluent (late 16th century) and fluid (Late Middle English); flume (Middle English) originally a stream; flux (Late Middle English) a state of flowing; effluent (Late Middle English) something that flows out; and superfluous (Late Middle English) ‘overflowing’.
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Italy saw an outbreak of a severe respiratory ailment in 1743. The English minister to Tuscany, Sir Horace Mann, wrote of Rome that ‘Everybody is ill of the Influenza, and many die’. The epidemic spread throughout Europe, and in English influenza became the general term for this type of contagious viral infection. The English shortened influenza to the more familiar flu in the mid 19th century. Italian influenza means ‘influence’ and derives from Latin fluere ‘to flow’. The Italian word also had the sense ‘an outbreak of an epidemic’, and so ‘an epidemic’.
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Latin mel ‘honey’ and the verb fluere ‘to flow’ are the base elements of mellifluous. Mellow (Late Middle English) may look as if it should be related, but it is not. It first meant ‘ripe, soft, sweet and juicy’ and may be a development of Old English melu ‘meal’.
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