Pardon the pun, but the word pollution has a surprisingly dirty etymology. It wasn't until the 1860s that the word meant "environmental contamination"; before that it had the very specific definition of "semen released anytime other than during intercourse", often referring to nocturnal emissions. Obviously this is connected to the modern word through a sense of contamination, but where does it come from? The source in question is Latin pollutionem, which had a bit broader meaning of a "defilement" or "desecration" of any kind. This nominative can be conjugated into the verb polluere, which meant "to defile" and was composed of two parts: por-, meaning "before", and luere, meaning "to smear." Essentially, "before smearing". Make your own inferences. Por- comes from the Proto-Indo-European root per, with the same definition and luere comes from Proto-Indo-European leu, or "to make dirty".
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.