The word anatomy, meaning "study of the human body", was borrowed into English in the late 1300s from Old French anatomie, which came from Latin anatomia, still with the same definition. This comes from Greek anatome, which meant "dissection" (because to study anatomy, you had to dissect people, of course). We can dissect that into two parts: ana, meaning "up", and temnein, meaning "cut". So a dissection is cutting something up. Makes sense. Ana in Proto-Indo-European was hen, or "on", and temnein comes from PIE tem, also meaning "to cut". One interesting side note in the development of anatomy: it was very close to losing the preceding a in English, as it was very frequently mistakenly divided into a natomy- just like we got uncle from nuncle through the division an uncle. Luckily, though, the Latin form prevailed, and we got the purest form of the word. Applications of the word anatomy has really increased since the 1700s, and is now at one of the most frequent usages it has ever been.
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.