The Etymology of “Alchemy”

"Alchemy" is from the Greek khemeioa, which was either from Khemia, a name for Egypt meaning "land of black earth," or the Greek khymatos "that which is poured out." It was often used as a scientific term until the 1600s when "chemistry" arose from it, leaving "alchemy" with its more mystical sense. The al- prefix predictably comes from the definite… Continue reading The Etymology of “Alchemy”

The Etymology of Psychological Terms: “Ambivalence,” “Schizophrenia” and “Autism”

Ambivalence was first a psychological term, literally meaning "strength on both sides." Paul Eugen Bleuler, the psychologist who coined it in 1910, also coined the terms schizophrenia ("a splitting of the mind") and autism (from Greek autos, "self"). Originally coined by Swiss psychologist Paul Eugen Bleuler in 1910, "ambivalence" as a psychological term means much the same… Continue reading The Etymology of Psychological Terms: “Ambivalence,” “Schizophrenia” and “Autism”

The Etymology of “Porpoise” (and “Tortoise” and “Dolphin”)

"Porpoise" literally means "pig-fish" from the Old French porpais (porc "pig, swine" + peis "fish"), probably a translation of Germanic words such as the Old Norse mar-svin, meaning "mereswine," which was also an early English word for porpoises or small dolphins. "Porpoise" is thought to have influenced the spelling of the word tortoise, which is not… Continue reading The Etymology of “Porpoise” (and “Tortoise” and “Dolphin”)

The Etymology of “Meteor”

"Meteor" comes from the Greek metéōron, literally meaning "thing high up." In 15th c. English, "meteor" could refer to any atmospheric phenomena, which were differentiated by various classifications of meteors. Hence "meteorology" as the study of atmospheric conditions, rather than just meteors. The term came to English in the late 15th century, from the Middle French météore, from Medieval… Continue reading The Etymology of “Meteor”

The Etymology of “Barricade”

"Barricade" came to English via the Middle French barricade, literally meaning "made of barrels." Its association with war and revolution comes from religion-fueled riots in Paris during the late 1500s, when combatants set up blockades made of stone- and dirt-filled barrels in the streets. These riots were part of the French Wars of Religion, fought between French… Continue reading The Etymology of “Barricade”