The word tibia has unsure origins, but in either scenario, it's pretty interesting. It was borrowed into English in 1726 from the Latin word tibia, also meaning "the shinbone". However, there was another meaning for Latin tibia: it also described a type of pipe or flute made from reeds. Now, the uncertainty is whether the "bone" meaning or the "flute" meaning came first. One one hand, many early flutes were constructed out of bones, but on the other, the tibia kind of looks like a flute. If it's the former, then there is no known cognate and it is likely from a non-Proto-Indo-European source, and if it's the latter, then there is one known cognate, Greek siphon, meaning "tube", and the resulting reconstruction means that it is likely from a non-Proto-Indo-European source. Usage of the phrase tibia has been decreasing since the late 1800s, although it is still seen fifty times more often in literature than shinbone.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-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