The English word sun probably began its existence six thousand years before heliocentric theory was proposed, and 4.6 billion years after it was created. Back then, it was spoken by steppe dwellers in far-eastern Europe and sounded something like shuen. As Proto-Indo-European broke apart, this word drifted into Proto-Germanic as sunnon, which later was shortened to sunne in Old English. Afterwards, the stress shifted away from the e, which eventually became silent and led to the modern spelling of sun. The verb to sun, "to put in sunlight to dry" came into being as an excellent example of anthimeria; but that's not nearly the most interesting part of the word: to find that we have to jump into another language: the Arabic word Sunni, which is a sect of Islam. This traces from the earlier word sunna, which meant "year" but had connections to the word sun, since the Arabs could tell the connection between a sun and a year a lot better than old feudalists could. In one theory, this could trace from the Proto-Semitic word sams, or "the sun", which is also the hypothesized origin of Hebrew shamash (also "sun"). This shows that two proto-languages, the farthest languages can be traced, have the sun linguistically common, suggesting a completely hypothetical but often sought-after proto-Afro-Eurasian language, which is still purely conjectures and cannot be proven. But the possibility exists!
The word mimic was first used in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Act III, Scene II. That's right; it was invented by the Bard himself. But where did this word, meaning "imitate" come from? Turns out it it's an imitation itself- it allegedly comes from the Latin word mimicus, which meant "pertaining to mimes" (Poor Romans! They had to put up with mimes too!), from the Greek word mimikos, with the same definition (this k to c switch is characteristic from Greek to Latin). This in turn stems from mimos, which meant "actor", and is said to be an adjectival form of Greek mimeisthai, "to imitate". Mimeisthai (probably from Proto-Greek or Pre-Mediterranean languages), as luck would have it, is also the source of meme, which was coined in 1976 (the biological kind, which later gave way to the Internet kind). Throughout all of history, words mimic each other, and mimic is no exception.
"The silent majority" is a phrase only uttered these days by politically inclined individuals. It means "a large group of people in a country who do not express their opinions publicly but can sway elections" and was most recently utilized in the Trump campaign on signs that said "the silent majority stands with Trump". The background behind this seems absurdly simple; silent and majority, two transparent words, combining to talk about a transparent political group of people. Well, to quote Trump, "wrong!" The silent majority used to be a euphemism for "dead people". This can be traced as far back as Petronius, who said abiit ad plures to describe deceased people, translating as "he's gone to the many" or "majority", since even then it was common knowledge that the dead outnumbered the living. Additionally, sometimes the dead would be described as "the silent" in Roman times. Whether or not these was translated by scholars is unanswered, but they later showed up in Victorian times as the phrase "silent majority", which slowly fell out of favor during the early nineteen hundreds to a more ubiquitous definition, where any large group that was not spoken of could be labled thus. Eventually, the Nixon Administration picked up the phrase in 1969 to describe those secretly in favor of the Vietnam bombing, as opposed to the "noisy minority", and it remains a politically charged statement to today.
The word admire has, uh, miraculous origins. A loanword from French admirar, it stems from Latin, where it was the word admiror. This is a portmanteau, of two other Latin words, ad, and miror. Ad is a common Latin prefix, meaning "towards", and that's generally been Indo-European for about eternity. Miror, the source of Spanish mirar, "look", but not English mirror, meant "to marvel at", from mirus, "astonishing". Something astonishing in a wonderful sense is something to smile at, so it makes sense that it comes from the Proto-Indo-European word smeyros, "smiling or laughing" (through Proto-Italic smeiros). That's already an admirable etymology, but let's go back to the Latin word mirus for a second. Later in Roman times, it gave way to the word miraculum, "object of wonder", since objects of wonder are "astonishing". This went into French as miracle, which passed into English with no alterations, as many French words did. This miraculous connection really proves that etymology is amazing!
An admiral is to be admired, but the words have nothing in common except a letter. In this post, I'll only explain the formal word; stay tuned for the latter. Admiral (meaning "commander") can be traced farthest back to the Arabic word amir, defined as "prince". Etymologists haven't bothered tracing this back to languages like Semitic or (even further back) Afro-Asiatic, but the correlation is clear: a Hebrew word, aluf, also means "commander", and is probably related. Anyway, amir (which is still present as an English word today, more commonly as emir), was later borrowed by the French as amiral ("commander of naval forces"), which became the current term admiral. But how did the d get inserted so surreptitiously? Folk etymology! We already had the word admirable, and people just assumed that the word for "powerful naval leader" came from admirable because he is one, so they 'corrected' the word to admiral. What a swimmingly buoyant etymology!
The word pomegranate has fantastic and metaphoric origins. Originally spelled poumgarnet, this is a combination of two French words, pome grenate. That phrase, however, goes back to Latin as a whole, as pomum granatum, or "apple with many seeds", which is basically what a pomegranate is. But the plot thickens. Pomum ("apple") is from the Proto-Italic word poomos, which meant "fruit" in general and is said to be from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word hpoem, "to take off", since a "fruit" is "taken off" a tree. The granatum part of pomum granatum meant "having seeds", and that goes back to the earlier Latin word grenate, meaning "having grains", since grains have seeds. This is a conjugated form of granum, or "grain" in general, which in turn goes to the Proto-Indo-European root greno, the source of everything from the Slavic to Germanic words for "grain". Anyway, etymologically speaking, we can see that pomegranate truly means "to take off grain".
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.