A form of a verb that in some languages, such as English, can function independently as an adjective, as the past participle baked in We had some baked beans, and is used with an auxiliary verb to indicate tense, aspect, or voice, as the past participle baked in the passive sentence The beans were baked too long.
[Middle English, from Old French, variant of participe, from Latin participium (translation of Greek metokhē, sharing, partaking, participle), from particeps, particip-, partaker; see PARTICIPATE.]
Usage Note: Participial phrases such as walking down the street or having finished her homework are commonly used in English to modify nouns or pronouns, but care must be taken in incorporating such phrases into sentences. Readers will ordinarily associate a participle with the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun adjacent to it, and misplacement may produce comic effects as in He watched his horse take a turn around the track carrying a racing sheet under his arm. A correctly placed participial phrase leaves no doubt about what is being modified: Sitting at her desk, Jane read the letter carefully. · Another pitfall in using participial phrases is illustrated in the following sentence: Turning the corner, the view was quite different. Grammarians would say that such a sentence contains a "dangling participle" because there is no noun or pronoun in the sentence that the participial phrase can logically modify. Moving the phrase will not solve the problem (as it would in the sentence about the horse with a racing sheet). To avoid distracting the reader, it would be better to recast the sentence as When we turned the corner, the view was quite different or Turning the corner, we had a different view. · A number of expressions originally derived from participles have become prepositions, and these may be used to introduce phrases that are not associated with the immediately adjacent noun phrase. Such expressions include concerning, considering, failing, granting, judging by, and speaking of. Thus one may write without fear of criticism Speaking of politics, the elections have been postponed or Considering the hour, it is surprising that he arrived at all. See Note at very.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.