A synecdoche is a literary term describing when a part represents a whole, or vice versa. The word itself is from Latin synecdoche, which comes from the Greek word synekdokhe. Both terms carried the modern meaning, but the latter branched out more, talking about the relationship between parts and wholes in general and literally meant "accepting together or separately". Synekdokhe is a combination of three other Greek terms, which make this definition at least a little bit clearer. First, the syn part is actually the precursor of sin-, the prefix for "with", and means the same, from PIE ksun, also "with". The second component is that of ek, the precursor of ex-, the prefix for "out", and also means the same, from PIE eghs, also "out". Finally, the root of the term is dokhe, which kind of meant "receive". This derives from the Proto-Indo-European term dek, which meant something more like "to accept". As a whole, when the parts are put together, a synecdoche really just means "without accepting".
Either the Greek guy who got to name the partridge was very childish, or he was messing with future linguists. What we now know as a beautiful bird was still a beautiful bird as the Middle French word pertis, was still a beautiful bird as the Old French word perdriz, was still a beautiful bird as the Latin word perdix, and was still a beautiful bird as the word that was borrowed from, Greek perdix. Then everything changes completely as we go back to the Greek verb perdesthai, which literally meant "to fart". This change was allegedly brought about because of the noise the bird's wings make, but it still seems pretty sketchy. Perdesthai derives from the Proto-Indo-European, which unlike most words in PIE only had one definition: still "to pass gas". This final root is possibly imitative, but that's just speculation at that point. So, from now on, if you want to be particularly punny and display both sophisticated and crude humor at the same time, call them fartridges. Then you'll also get to explain the origin, if your friends don't walk away, ashamed in you, by then.
You're under one most of the time, but you never stop to think of the many layers of etymology are contained in the word ceiling. First off, it comes from the Middle English verb ceiling, which was a verb meaning "to panel" (note the -ing at the end). This is from the root ceil, or "to cover", which makes perfect sense considering that that's what a ceiling does. As the soft c and hidden vowel imply, ceil is from Old French, in this case the verb celer, "to conceal", in turn from Latin celare, "to hide", which was sort of modified in meaning because of a little cross-confusion with caelum, "heaven". Anyway, celare comes from Proto-Italic kel, which derives from a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root which also sounded like kel, and also meant something along the lines of "cover", though it may have varied a bit.
Woot Woot! The Etymology Nerd has been running for a whole year now! The word anniversary comes to us from Latin anniversarius, which conveniently meant "returning yearly", especially referring to religious holidays in those times. This, unsurprisingly, is a portmanteau of annus, meaning "yearly", and versus, "to turn". It is generally confirmed that annus used to be the Proto-Italic word atno, from Proto-Indo-European het. Both meant "year" as well. Meanwhile, we've already covered versus, the past participle of vertere, for a plethora of posts, but just to reiterate, it is from Proto-Italic werto, from Proto-Indo-European wer, which also meant "rotate", not a huge difference. So, the word anniversary had poor semantic variation, but nevertheless has a cool etymological meaning. Usage of anniversary has been steadily increasing, but there are sadly no serendipitous yearly trends. Anyway, happy birthday to my site!
Our word panic is a borrowing from Middle French panique, which, probably through Latin, goes back to the Greek word panikon. Panikon once did mean "sudden panic", but before that it carried the definition "of or pertaining to the god Pan", the deity-in-chief of the wild and shepherds. How did this change come about? Well, as a neat little side effect of being the god of the wild, Pan could create a primal scream which sent grown men reeling in absolute fear, according to legend of course. Now that you know that, let's go further. Panikon is a back-formation of the god's name, obviously, and Pan has cognates in the Indian languages that suggest a Proto-Indo-European root peh, which meant "protect" primarily, but also had the meaning of "shepherd", the one that evolved into Pan's name. Usage of the word panic has increased steadily since the 1980s, which does not bode well.
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.