Questions tagged [etymologia]

For questions about etymology: the history of words in Latin or the change in meaning as the words are loaned into another language.

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27
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5answers
21k views

Is “history” a male-biased word (“his+story”)?

In the last International Women's Day I saw some footage showing a poster with the phrase "women making herstory", as opposed to "history". The phrase was playing with the fact that the word "history" ...
25
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1answer
3k views

Why hippopotamus instead of potamohippus?

Judging by this dictionary entry for hippopotamus, the Romans knew this animal and used the name we currently use in English. This word has an obviously Greek origin: hippos is a horse and potamos is ...
21
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3answers
830 views

When is “diēs” masculine, when is it feminine, and why can this word take different genders?

Wiktionary goes into it a bit: Diēs is an exceptional case of a fifth declension noun since it is both used in the masculine form and in the feminine form, instead of just feminine like the rest of ...
19
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1answer
2k views

Are the two cums related?

In short, is there a relation between the preposition cum and the conjunction cum? It makes some sense that the conjunction would come from the preposition. One could interpret some cum clauses so ...
19
votes
1answer
818 views

On the etymology of “discipulus” and “disciplina”

I am interested in the origin of the words discipulus and disciplina, which have found their way into many modern languages, e.g., in the English words disciple and discipline. Unfortunately, there ...
17
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1answer
4k views

Why are the words for “children” (liberi) and “book” (libri) so similar?

While working in class, I came across this. They have a similar spelling, yet mean completely different things. Is this just random or does it have an actual purpose in the Latin language? Book = ...
17
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3answers
2k views

Is Nietzsche's proposed etymology of “bonus” (good) correct?

In the first treatise of On the Genealogy of Morality, §5, Nietzsche proposes the following derivation of bonus (good): I believe I may interpret the Latin bonus as "the warrior": assuing that ...
17
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1answer
441 views

When did the word “ly” enter the Latin language and where did it come from?

In an answer to this question, I gave examples of the word "ly" in Medieval Latin. This leads me to wonder when the term entered the language and where it came from? Because it resembles the article ...
16
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2answers
232 views

How did “spina” shift semantically from “thorn” or “prickle” to “backbone”?

From the online etymology dictionary (boldface mine): spine (n.) c. 1400, "backbone," later "thornlike part" (early 15c.), from Old French espine "thorn, prickle; backbone, spine" (12c., Modern ...
16
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1answer
142 views

Quare dicitur “poeta” et non “pœeta”?

"Why is it "poeta" and not "poeeta" in Latin?" This question occurs in the Harvard University Catalogue of 1872-73, but I haven't been able to find the answer. The reason I would expect "pœeta" is ...
16
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1answer
254 views

What is the origin of the -a in words like “collega, advena”?

There are a couple of masculine (or common) nouns of the first declension. Some are from masculine Greek -ês, like poeta, nauta. But others, like collega, advena, parricida, scriba, incola, agricola, ...
15
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2answers
299 views

Why does uacuus have three syllables?

I stumbled across this question on the pronunciation of 'vacuum' in the “linguistics” forum. My question is: If uacuus is *wak+wo- why does uacuus have three syllables, but uiuus, paruus, caluus etc. ...
15
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1answer
273 views

Meaning and etymology of ūrīnor and ūrīna: “to dive” comes from “pee”?

Starting from a Bart Simpson prank call, I looked for "urinator" in Wiktionary, and suddenly found myself faced with the Latin meaning of the word, that is, ūrīnātor meaning "diver". And I was like no,...
15
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1answer
790 views

What are the origins of the two Latin names for boron, borium and boracium?

On Latin Wikipedia, there are a number of chemical elements with two Latin names, e.g. boron being borium and boracium. (Another example being nitrogen: nitrogenium or azotum.) What is the etymology ...
14
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1answer
596 views

What does the suffix -mentum add to a word's meaning?

Lewis and Short lists 275 words ending in -mentum, many of which have come into English: argumentum augmentum documentum fragmentum pigmentum segmentum etc. Wiktionary (cited as an example, not as ...
14
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1answer
350 views

Did Romans distinguish between black and blue?

Did the Romans distinguish between black and blue? Or, more generally, what do we know about their color system? I was wondering because many of the modern Roman languages use either Arabic or ...
13
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3answers
1k views

How does ‘pontifex’ connect to the significance of bridge building as pious work?

From the Online Etymology Dictionary: pontifex (n.) member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1570s, from Latin pontifex "high priest, chief of the priests," probably from pont-, ...
13
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1answer
193 views

What is the earliest known word borrowed from Latin to Greek?

There was a great cultural borrowing of ideas from Greece to Rome, and a number of Greek words ended up being borrowed to Latin. But it must have happened the other way, too, at some point. What is ...
13
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1answer
395 views

Beaver and Pollux?

Castor and Pollux are famous mythological twins. Castor is also the genus of beavers. This makes me wonder two things: Are these two Castors related in any way? Was this double meaning observed in ...
13
votes
1answer
499 views

On the etymology of “violin” and “vitula”

Several English etymological sources say violin is from Latin vitula. A vitula/vitulus is a calf. But why was the instrument named after a calf? But some sources say this vitula may be from vitulari "...
12
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2answers
2k views

If arm is 'arma', why is unarmed 'inermis' and not 'inarmis'?

I came across the Spanish word 'inerme', which comes from Latin inermis and means unarmed. Since the Latin word for arm is 'arma' and the preffix 'in' indicates negation, it is clear that the form '...
12
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1answer
267 views

Does “ad” have its origin in Hebrew/Semitic languages?

The sources I've read usually say that 'ad' (i.e., in 'ad infinitum') is derived from Proto-Indo-European *ád ‎("near, at"). However, they don't refer any Semitic origins. But here's an excerpt from ...
12
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2answers
618 views

How do the verbs do and δίδωμι come from *deh₃-?

I was a little surprised to find that the PIE root of do and δίδωμι is *deh₃-, not *do-. How did we get the "o" vowel sound from eh₃? I don't actually know how to pronounce h₃, but I'm assuming that *...
12
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2answers
2k views

Origins of the word “hodie”

Hodie is a Latin adverb meaning "today" or "at the present time". I am rather curious as to how this word developed. Was it originally a compound of hōc and diē, which would be translated as "on this ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Does the “re” in emails have an ancient origin?

The Latin ablative re has become a word in English, meaning "regarding" or "with reference to" or something along those lines. This is also used in emails as an automatically generated prefix "Re:&...
12
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2answers
913 views

Is llama lama or glama?

I went to a zoo today, and I noticed that the scientific name of llama is Lama glama. It seems to me that both lama and glama are latinized versions of "llama". Why were two different versions of the ...
12
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1answer
201 views

Why is it “dare” and not “dāre” when most first conjugation verbs spell like “amāre”?

Why does dō conjugate differently from other first conjugation verbs in that you find a short a where otherwise you might expect a long ā? BACKGROUND Examples: amāre (dare), amārī (darī), ...
12
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2answers
189 views

What is the origin of the “veneration” meaning of dulia?

The word dulia comes from the Greek doulia (meaning "slavery" or "servitude"). But in Catholicism, the word has taken on a theological meaning, as described in the Catholic Encyclopedia, "signifying ...
12
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1answer
888 views

Why might “Philosophiae Doctor” (the source of “Ph.D.”) have been preferred over “Doctor Philosophiae”?

The English abbreviation Ph.D. comes from the Latin for Doctor of Philosophy, which I understand would be either Philosophiae Doctor or Doctor Philosophiae. I know word order is flexible in Latin, ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Are “sex” and “sexus” etymologically related?

Are sex (the number 6) or sextus (⅙ or ordinal sixth)(From where the English word "sextant" comes.) and sexus (sex or gender) etymologically related?
11
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3answers
457 views

Where does Pliny, or any ancient author, write about a stilus plumbeus?

Researching the history of the pencil the German speaking web is full of quotes that attribute to Pliny the mentioning of a stilus plumbeus as the historical and etymological source for the word ...
11
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2answers
376 views

How do we know that Italian words come from accusatives, not ablatives?

I have been told by several sources that Italian nouns and adjectives that originate from Latin come from accusative forms. Also the final -m is lost and an u becomes o. For example, caro > carnem > ...
11
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2answers
2k views

How did mundus come to mean both world and clean?

Basically what's in the title: How did mundus come to mean both world and clean? L&S lists a number of other meanings, but in my knowledge these are two very frequent uses, that do not seem to ...
11
votes
2answers
296 views

Etymology of 'calcit(r)are'?

While interested in the etymology of 'recalcitrant', most sources, namely OED, M-W, etymonline) give something like the following: 1823, from French récalcitrant, literally "kicking back" (17c.-...
11
votes
1answer
116 views

Is fessus a participle?

The adjective fessus (wearied, tired, fatigued, worn out, weak, feeble, infirm) sounds and looks like it could well be a participle. If there is a verb, I would assume it to mean something in the ...
11
votes
1answer
836 views

Etymology of “salarium” and its connection to salt

It has been asked before both in the English Language & Usage site and the Spanish Language site about the etymology of salary and salario, respectively. In both cases, this site was mentioned as ...
11
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1answer
1k views

Evolution of the meaning of sacramentum

I am interested in the development of the word sacramentum, from the classical to the current ecclesiastical usage. The Lewis & Short entry lists the following meanings: I A. Jurid. t. t., ...
11
votes
2answers
224 views

Is there an exclusive word for octopus in Ancient Greek?

I was having the great "octopuses vs. octopi" debate with a scientist friend the other day, and decided to check the lexicon. The only entry I could find relates the word to measurement, either of ...
11
votes
1answer
123 views

Who invented the common expression “et cetera”?

This question seems to assume that the Romans actually used et cetera as we do. But did they really? By that, I mean: did they use et cetera at the end of a clause or phrase, without any noun agreeing ...
10
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2answers
266 views

What is the origin or significance of “-trio” in “septentrionalis”?

The word septentrionalis "northern" comes from septentriones, cf. Lewis & Short: septentrĭōnes (septemptrĭōnes), um (sing. and tmesis, v. infra), m. [septemtrio; prop. the seven plough-oxen; ...
10
votes
1answer
128 views

Apicius' “sp[h]ondyli vel fonduli”

Apicius' de re coquinaria (Roman recipe book believed to have been compiled in the 4th/5th century CE) contains, in the book 3 "cepuros" on vegetables, a paragraph (XX, recipes 115 to 121) entitled "...
10
votes
1answer
195 views

Mediaeval Latin adopted the Greek word 'grapheus' as '-gravius' (which led to Dutch/German 'graaf/Graf', “count”); where and when did this happen?

Philippa (2003–2009) says about the Dutch word graaf, "count", that it came from Greek grapheus "writer/scribe", through Mediaeval Latin -gravius, "royal administrative official, overseer". Now I ...
9
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2answers
1k views

Is the prefix “di-” more Latin-like than “bi-”?

Question. (1) Is there anything close to scientifically-meaningful to say about whether the prefix "di-" is more Latin than the prefix "bi-", when indicating two-ness? (2) Are there published ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Homo Novus vs Novus Homo

To my surprise, the English Wikipedia article about the concept of homines novi is called Novus Homo, not homo novus as I would expect. I have been taught that Latin order is almost always ...
9
votes
2answers
246 views

Is the -que in quinque at all related to the conjunction -que?

I noticed that quinque ends in -que. I asked my teacher if this was sheer coincidence or so reason for it. He didn't know but he thought it was coincidental. I, however, think that they probably share ...
9
votes
2answers
113 views

Does “comperendinare” really mean “to adjourn for three days” (or similar) and if yes, how do we know this?

According to my (German) Latin dictionary (Stowasser), comperendinō means to summon for the third-next day of court (für den drittnächsten Gerichtstag vorladen). It always struck me as bizarre that a ...
9
votes
1answer
168 views

How are εὔχομαι and voveo cognates?

The verb εὔχομαι means "to pray", and it shows up before the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as προσεύχεσθε. I was curious to learn more about this word, so of course I looked it up in Wiktionary, and ...
9
votes
2answers
222 views

Where did the name Ulixes come from?

He's Odysseus in Homer, but how did he become Ulixes/Ulysses when he arrived (so to speak) in Rome, where there were many people who knew him from the Iliad and the Odyssey? And was there a separate ...
9
votes
1answer
194 views

Evolution of the meaning of Tollere?

One of my favorite Latin words is Tollere because it means both "to raise" as in to lift off the ground, as well as (more poetically) "to raze" or destroy/take away. Are there any commentaries on how ...
9
votes
1answer
560 views

What is the origin of the 3rd-person plural perfect ending “-ēre”?

Laudavēre is an (apparently older) alternative to laudaverunt. What is the origin of this ending? Is it connected with any other known endings or affixes? Clackson & Horrocks say it is from an ...