You know how, on a six-sided die, the number five is represented with five dots in a sort of "x" formation? Yeah, that particular geometric arrangement is called a quincunx. The word's origin is quite interesting: it means "five-twelfths", because in the times of the Romans, a quincunx was worth 5/12 of a bronze coin. This was often notated using that cross-shaped pattern which is so familiar to us today. Eventually, the word lost its connection with the denominator, because it was more commonly associated with the symbol. Quincunx is a portmanteau of the words quinque, meaning "five" (through Proto-Italic kenke, this is from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction penke, with the same meaning), and unus, meaning "one" (from Proto-Indo-European oynos, through Proto-Italic oinos). Now you know.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.