Stipulate

(3 syl.). The word is generally given from the Latin stipula (a straw), and it is said that a straw was given to the purchaser in sign of a real delivery. Isidore (v. 24) asserts that the two contracting parties broke a straw between them, each taking a moiety, that, by rejoining the parts, they might prove their right to the bargain. With all deference to the Bishop of Sevillle, his “fact” seems to belong to limbo-lore. All bargains among the Romans were made by asking a question and replying to it. One said, An stipem vis? the other replied, Stipem volo (“Do you require money?” “I do”); the next question and answer were, An dabis? Dabo (“Will you give it?” “I will”); the third question was to the surety, An spondes? to which he replied, Spondeo

(“Will you be security?” “I will”), and the bargain was made. So that stipulate is compounded of stips-volo (stipulo), and the tale about breaking the straws seems to be concocted to bolster up a wrong etymology.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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