A student recently posted this question in the forums:

In Chapter four of Lingua Latina, a new word is “baculum”, meaning “stick”. In the world of logic, there is a fallacy, called Ad Baculum. I am assuming that these are related. Does it mean, “to the stick”?

Here is my reply:

You are correct.  In Latin, a baculum is a stick, walking stick, or a staff

In logic, an Argumentum Ad Baculum is an “argument to the stick”.  Essentially, you use the threat of force to coerce someone into accepting an argument.

From baculum, English also derives the words:

  • baguette – a loaf of bread resembling a stick
  • bacillus – a stick-shaped bacterium.  Bacillus, in Latin, means a “little staff”.  From baculum, English also may derive the word
  • bachelor – a young man.   Possibly a reference to a young squire who would practice with a staff of wood instead of with a real sword.