Lapis lazuli is a sought-after stone the color of azure, which is often used as jewelry. Since the eighteenth century, the abbreviation lazuli has been present, but the full name has stuck around since the 1600s, when it came as a direct loan from Medieval Latin lapis lazuli, with a rough translation of "stone of the heavens". I'm not concerned with lapis, the "stone" part, but lazuli is from the singular lazulum (just "heaven", obviously), which comes from Arabic lazuward, which, curiously enough, meant "azure"! At this point you might guess that the color azure also traces to this word. You would not be wrong: the French took the subsequent Greek word lazour and mistakenly separated as they do, l'azour. Then they dropped the determiner, it became azur, and we took it into English as it is. Going back to lazuward, we can trace the history of both lazuli and azure to Persian lajavard. This, by the way, isn't Iran; it's eastern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan, and lajavard ultimately is named after a village in the area, Lazvard, where azure lazuli was first mined. Weird how over two thousand years, so much changed around the (-)azu- that center both words.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd