[Ads-l] Incept v. Lives!

Tue Oct 10 18:06:45 UTC 2017

We all know "inception," but what about "incept"?  The OED takes this verb back to 1569, but the primary sense, "To undertake; to begin, commence, enter upon," is marked as Obs., with no examples since 1641 (1802 for adverbial "incepted").  There are surviving specialized senses involving entering into a career or, in biology, to take in, as an organism or cell.  Merriam-Webster similarly deems the "being, commence, undertake" meaning to be archaic, although it notes surviving meanings of to ingest or to take in as a member.

I was surprised recently to learn that the primary meaning is actually very much alive in insurance and law (though not, apparently, in the areas of law where I practice, since I hadn't heard it before).  A Westlaw search for "incepted" after 2000 finds 6,253 examples, including in 161 court opinions.  Here's the most recent as of today:  "The heart of the parties' dispute is whether the SEC's investigation into Patriarch is excluded from coverage because it was a pending or prior "claim" at the time the AXIS policy incepted in August 2011."  Patriarch Partners v. AXIS Insurance Co., No. 16-CV-2277, 2017 WL 4233078 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2017).

As this example may suggest, most uses refer to the inception of insurance policies.  There are, however, other references, as in this recent case:  "Turning to the instant matter, SSEM claims that its State Court lawsuit should not have been stayed by this Court because its breach of contract claim for its share of attorneys' fees is not ancillary to the case which incepted in United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2003-namely, In re: Community Bank of Northern Virginia."  In re Community Bank of Northern Virginia Mortgage Lending Practices Litigation, MDL No. 1674, 2017 WL 3621509 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 23, 2017).  

Here's another recent non-insurance example, this one from the Board of Veterans Appeals:  "The Veteran's hearing loss incepted during active duty service due to acoustic trauma experienced during combat."  Bd. Vet. App. 1736385, 2017 WL 4475408 (Aug. 31, 2017).

So on the whole I think this is not an archaic or obsolete meaning, although it may be appropriate to mark its current use as primarily insurance and law.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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