Etymology of Execute

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

The word “execute” “execution”, is really hateful.

When you use it, you connote killing and truth-hiding.

First, it's got the sense of “put to death”, which is a euphemism, from the original sense of “to follow out”.

Then, the word is a mouthful.

execute

late 14c. “to carry into effect” (transitive, mostly in law with reference to warrants, sentences, etc.), also “carry out or accomplish a course of action” (intransitive), from Old French executer (14c.), from Medieval Latin executare, from Latin execut-/exsecut-, past participle stem of exequi/exsequi “to follow out, to follow to the grave,” figuratively “to follow, follow after, accompany, follow up, prosecute, carry out, enforce; execute, accomplish; punish, avenge,” from ex- “out” (see ex-) + sequi “follow” (see sequel). Meaning “to inflict capital punishment” is from late 15c., from earlier legal sense “perform judgment or sentence on” (early 15c.). Related: Executed; executing.

this is particular annoying in technical writing about programing. Because, you have to speak of when the program run, that is, execution.

For example, “when the function is executed…”.

i don't want my tech writing to be associated with the imagery of human animal's behavior of killing another human animal, nor the imagery of certain human concept called law and order. Nor, do i want to be associated with the concept of euphemism — a form of truth hiding.

Also, the etymology or root of the word “execute” does not easily conjure up the concept of its sense of “following steps; perform”.

The alternative word is “run”, but that word got too many meanings. Also, it's got a annoying irregular past tense “ran”.