Friday, February 29, 2008


Ecstasy seems like it should have some roots in it. Perhaps stas- as in stasis? They have very different meanings though, so how would you get from stasis to ecstasy? confirms the guess of stas- as a root. Apparently ecstasy comes from the Greek ékstasis meaning "displacement" or "trance." The Greek ékstasis comes from the prefix ek- and the root stasis, which has its modern meaning. Ek- is a form of the familiar prefix ex- meaning "out" or "from." Thus ecstasy means "out of stasis," i.e., "out of balance/equilibrium (emotionally)," which is what it means today, though I think it has acquired a positive connotation that it did not always have.

The ec- form of ex- still appears in modern English; for example, eccentric, which presumably means, literally, "out of center."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Whence and co.

While none of these posts will contain original content (I am after all, mostly copying out of dictionaries etymologies that I happen to find interesting, elaborating and synthesizing a bit) this one is a particularly bad example. The only thing I have to add to this is a nicely formatted chart showing a regularity in these fun words (some archaic but some definitely still current) which I had never before suspected:


I didn't realize that herefore was a word, but it makes sense.

Of course, there are irregulars: while what and that follow the form we use this instead of "hat," and although which follows the wh- form for an interrogative we don't have "thich or "hich."


I suppose a blog on etymology should take a look at that word. It clearly has some roots in it, but what are they?

Looks like it comes from the Greek etymológos, which has essentially the same meaning. In this word there are two roots: étymo (true, actual, real) and lógos (which means "reason" as in logic but also "word" as in dialogue).

I've never heard of this étymo root before. Turns out it shows up as a modern English word, etymon (a pretty word), which defines as "the linguistic form from which another form is historically derived." It gives as an example the Latin root "cor" (meaning heart) which is the etymon of the modern English cordial or accord. A useful word for the writer of an etymology blog to know.


The words diploma and diplomacy seem like they must share a root, but they have widely differing meanings. Where is the common ground?

At first I thought of the French nom de plume, literally pen-name, where the plume means pen and is probably derived from the same place as the English plume as in feather (think quill pens).

It looks like this is dead wrong, though: diploma and diplomacy come from the Greek diploma meaning, originally, "a paper folded double," from diplo-, meaning double. We still use the prefix diplo- to mean double in English. For example, diploid cell, a cell where there are two versions of each chromosome (the chromosomes are doubled).

However, it looks like the words duplicate and double do not come from the Greek diplo-, but rather from Latin duplus, du- (two) + plus (-fold), meaning, literally, twofold (but not fold as in the sense of "a paper folded double," rather in the sense of "a twofold increase in profits").

So. Not what I was hoping for, but still interesting.

Hello world

Hello world. This blog will be about the etymology of interesting words, and words with interesting etymologies. Each post will be a detailed dissection of the roots and history of a word or set of words.