The word wisteria, referring to a genus of colorful climbing shrubs, was coined in 1819 by English anatomist Thomas Nuttall after Caspar Wistar, an anatomy professor who passed away earlier that year, and the noun-ending suffix -ia. You may have noticed that Wistar's name has an a in it while wisteria has an e in it, and this was traditionally ascribed to misspelling, but new evidence from an 1898 interview says otherwise. According to Nuttall, he intentionally coined the name because wisteria sounded more euphonious. There was also a branch of the Wistar family called the Wisters, so Nuttall figured that if it was pretty much the same thing he might as well go with the version that sounded better to him. Both sides of the family anglicized their name from Wüster, a German word related to our word waste.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior 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.