The word pancreas has an interesting origin. It's a sixteenth century loan from the Latin word pancreas, from Greek pankreas. A lot of people were poking around the human body at the time, so we're not really sure who coined it. It may have been Herophilius, it may have been Aristotle. In any case it was in the BCE years. Anyway, we do know for sure that it's a combination of the word pan, or "all", and the word kreas, which meant "flesh" (this is named thus because the pancreas contains neither bone nor cartilage). Pan is now a common prefix in English (pansexual, pandemic, panic), may be connected to the Greek god's name Pan, and derives from the earlier word pas, from Mycenean pasi, from the Proto-Indo-European word pehnts, all of which meant "all". Kreas, on the other hand, takes a more direct route, through Proto-Hellenic krewas ("flesh") to Proto-Indo-European krewhs, which meant "blood" and therefore is as good a proof as any for transubstantiation.
I learned this from reading Atwood: contrary to popular belief, the phrase mayday has nothing to do with days in the fifth month. Used as a naval and air distress signal, mayday is actually a borrowing from French, where the phrase m'aider meant "help me". The word as we know it was altered to look more Germanic through folk etymology. M' is a contraction of me ("me"), a word we've already explored and one that's pretty ubiquitous in IE languages, going back to the Proto-Indo-European term eme. Aider, the root of the English words aide and aid, unsurprisingly meant "help" or "assist". This is from the Latin verb adutare, which basically goes back to the root iuvere (still "to help", once we eliminate the prefix ad-, meaning "toward"). This in turn is from Proto-Indo-European hewh, which also meant something along the lines of "help". Usage of mayday has increased exponentially since it was introduced in 1923 and search interest for the word is highest in Singapore, for some reason.
Normally adjectives are formed from nouns, but here another noun formed from that adjective. The word volt (of which voltmeter and voltage were derived) was coined in 1873 to describe the symbol for electric potential. This came from the 1813 term voltaic, a word named after Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery. But where did Volta's name come from? There's no concrete research on the topic because it's way too meta, but a quick search of the word volta in all Indo-European languages (in ours too; a volta has something to do with sonnets) yielded the same results all around: every one of them originally meant "to turn" or "return" or had something to do with turning, and all of them come from the Latin root volvere, or "to turn". If this is correct, it would come from the Proto-Indo-European word wel, meaning "revolve", and, yes, would be connected to the word revolting, revolve, and anything else you can think of with a -vol- in it. I wouldn't be surprised if this was his last name; such occurrences are not uncommon. That would also make him related to the Volta river in Africa! Who knows though; it may just be wishful thinking.
It's so weird how the above title can mean "the act of attacking electrical cells", "electrical cells that attack", "artillery that attacks", and "the act of attacking artillery". English is so complex. Anyway, it just occurred to me that battery can mean either the criminal offense or the energy storage thing, and how they're connected is interesting. It all starts with the Proto-Indo-European root which sounded something like behw or bhau and meant "to strike". This traveled through an apparently unrecorded word in Gaulish until it was picked up by invading Romans and inserted into Latin as battuere, or "to beat". This went back into the general area through Old French baterie, defined as "assault", and through Middle English batterie, landed in English as a word for "attack" and to describe large guns that "assault" others. These large guns would become important later when Ben Franklin invented a rudimentary version of the battery in 1748 and, likening the discharge of energy to the discharge of ammunition by military armaments, called it a "battery", cementing both definitions forevermore.
Etymologies are interesting. This blog post traces the etymology of the word syllogism. Therefore, this blog post is interesting. The word syllogism, meaning "a logical conclusion, normally based on two sentences" comes directly from the Old French word silogisme. from Latin syllogismus, from Greek sullogismos, literally meaning "inference". This is derived from the earlier word sullogizomai, which meant "computation" and "infer" simultaneously; it's easy to see how these two forms of logic shared some phonemes here. Sullogizomai is a compound, of the prefix sun-, meaning "together", and of logizomai, "to compute". Sun traces back to its PIE cognate sem, and we can eliminate the -izomai suffix by tracing it to the PIE denominative suffix -idyeti. The root, logos, meant "reason" or "word" and can be traced to the PIE root leg, meaning "to gather", supposedly because one with reason gathers their wits? Eh. Interesting!
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.