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Obviously the word заповедовать is an ancient one.

But is it incomprehensible somehow, so that the reader has to hold while reading, maybe wondering what's meant exactly or does he - i. e. the Russian reader - treat it basically like приказывать, повелевать?

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It is slightly arhaic but easily understood.

You see, with words like "лицеприятие" the problem is, there is no clear meaning. "-ие" kinda signals that the word means some phenomenon or process. However, no words look similar to that one. You have "нелицеприятный" which is now mostly used as "unpleasant" except by people who checked it in the dictionary.. sooo.. is "лицеприятие" a word for "pleasantition"? "plesantity"? "pleasanation"? With the old meaning of "нелицеприятный"(unprejudiced) it was obvious what the meaning is, but not anymore in the lack of proper context.

You have a completely different picture with "заповедовать/заповедать". Russian still has "заповедь" (commandment) used in religious contexts and, figuratively, in some others. Russian still uses the root "вед" (as in "поведать", "в неведении", "без моего ведома") and "заповедь" actually was formed as "the things that are told". So a native speaker may not be sure such a word as "заповедовать" exists but assuming it is actually a Russian word, one can easily see what is its most probable meaning.

Actually, there are two words in modern Russian that should be known to almost any native speaker older than 9 or 10 years:

  • заповедь = commandment (religious)
  • заповедник = nature reserve

They are beyond the list of the most frequent 5000 words, but clearly in the most used 10000–15000 — so yeah, even a moderately well-read elementary school pupil has enough passive vocabulary to make a good guess what "заповедовать" means. The good thing is, this guess is correct.

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    You can also add another word known to everyone, "заповедный" as in "заповедные леса" - 'protected forests'. – Yellow Sky Jul 6 '14 at 13:19
  • Yeah, I know. Here, I preferred to simplify things a bit and not to add an obvious derivative. Besides, it is slightly less popular statistically while still being significant: their frequencies are related to each other as 4 : 2: 1, with "заповедь" being the most used word and "заповедный" a word 4-5 times as rare. – Shady_arc Jul 6 '14 at 17:39

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