Characterized by the passage of some property or characteristic from one place or concept to another place or concept.

When I took French in high school I came across the con­cept of tran­si­tive ver­sus intran­si­tive verbs. Per­haps this dis­tinc­tion was made in my stud­ies of Eng­lish, but what I recall is a spe­cif­ic con­ver­sa­tion in French class.

While try­ing to grasp what my teacher was telling me, I asked whether a tran­si­tive verb was one that required a direct object. I hoped that was a dif­fer­ent way of say­ing what she had been telling us, and that she would con­firm that I had it right.

She told me no. It was some­thing else. And she com­menced to explain what a tran­si­tive verb was, in a way that still sound­ed to me like «verb that requires a direct object.» I left that class near­ly thir­ty years ago assum­ing that there was some­thing I just was­n’t getting.

I thought about this inci­dent recent­ly when I was look­ing for infor­ma­tion about the asso­cia­tive prop­er­ty and stum­bled across the tran­si­tive prop­er­ty. As some­times hap­pens, my brain stum­bled upon a pre­vi­ous­ly uncon­sid­ered com­mon­al­i­ty between uses of dif­fer­ent words with the same latin roots.

Tran­sit means move­ment. Tran­si­tive refers to some­thing being in motion, or pass­ing from one place to anoth­er. The tran­si­tive prop­er­ty of equal­i­ty states that equal­i­ty can be con­sid­ered to trans­fer from one equa­tion to anoth­er. If a = b and b = c then a = c. So once again the mem­o­ry from high school came to mind and I thought that the appli­ca­tion of the word tran­si­tive to a verb which inher­ent­ly includes an object an not just a sub­ject makes too much sense for it not to be the case.

Here Cham­bers Dic­tio­nary came to my res­cue. It was not oblique about the def­i­n­i­tion. The third def­i­n­i­tion under tran­si­tive is:

(of a verb) tak­ing a direct object

So there is no sub­tle­ty that I missed. Hav­ing a nec­es­sary direct object is unequiv­o­cal­ly what tran­si­tive means. It’s too basic an error and my French teacher was too smart a woman for her to have got­ten this wrong; I’m assum­ing that we sim­ply failed to com­mu­ni­cate somehow.

It is, though, a mys­tery that I can let escape from my head. I had it right all along.