English is one of the only European or Asian languages that doesn't use a variation of the word "ananas" to mean pineapple. In 14th-century English, the word “pineapple” was a word for a pine cone, which makes a lot of sense if you think about the way pinecones grow on conifers, much like apples on apple trees. During… Continue reading The Tale of the Defiant Pineapple and Its Confused Friend the Pinecone
Yesterday was William Shakespeare’s birthday (and also mine!) It’s commonly said that Shakespeare invented over 1700 words. While it’s true that his plays are the first documented appearance of many words, in most cases he did not just pluck them out of thin air. The majority are alterations or remixes of preexisting words by adding… Continue reading Unexpectedly Shakespearean Words
Let's look at words derived from or related to the Greek naus meaning “ship” and nautes, meaning “sailor.” You can probably guess that the word “nautical,” and “navy” come from this Greek source. Another related word is “navigate,” which literally and etymologically means “to set a ship in motion." Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash The word “nausea,”… Continue reading Root Exploration: Words Derived from the Greek Naus, or “Ship”
Coward comes from the Old French coart, "tail (of an animal)" + the pejorative ending -ard, suggesting an animal's tail tucked in fear. Coward comes from the Old French word coart, from the Latin coda or cauda, meaning "tail (of an animal)." As a result, the word likely came to imply fear in a metaphorical sense—an animal's tail tucked between its… Continue reading The Etymology of “Coward”
To be "disoriented" is to be feel confused or unable to determine where you are. Etymologically, it specifically means that you do not know in which direction the sun will rise—that is, which way is East. The base word comes from the Latin orientem, which means “the East.” The Latin base word is oriri, meaning… Continue reading If You’re Disoriented, Are You Also Disoccidented?
"Pterodactyl" was adopted from the French ptérodactyle, which came from the Latin name for the genus, Pterodactylus, which is formed by the Greek pteron, meaning "wing," and daktylos, meaning "finger." This is an engraving of the 1784 pterodactyl holotype (i.e., the first official named specimen). Despite the name, it was debated until the 1830s whether… Continue reading Etymological Journeys: What Do Pterodactyls, Helicopters and Confederates Have in Common?
It may come as no surprise that "spring" is a Middle English word for the time when new life "springs forth." What you may not know is that "spring" was also used in everyday phrases like spring of dai, meaning "sunrise," and spring of mone, meaning "moonrise." It was also used for the first growth… Continue reading An Etymology Lesson for the First Day of Spring
Since we’re stuck inside and all of the parades have been canceled, I have an alternative for you this fine St. Paddy’s Day: a parade of Irish words and their origins! Some you’ve met, some you may not have, but all are worthy of a toast. "Ireland" (or "Irish") itself is originally from the Old… Continue reading 10 Irish Words and Their Origins for St. Patrick’s Day
"Discombobulate" was one in a series of words invented in the early to mid-1800s as part of a fad popular among educated high-society types who made up faux words by compiling Latin prefixes, suffixes, roots and other non-Latin components into silly-sounding combinations. Discombobulate itself is used to mean "confused" or "disoriented" now, but originally meant… Continue reading The Etomeelo… Atomolo… Etymolololo… Etymology of “Discombobulate”