Most people don't know that the mathematical name for the infinity symbol or any figure-eight shaped curve (∞) is a lemniscate, and of course even fewer know the interesting etymology behind that word. It comes from lemniscatus, meaning "decorated with ribbons", obviously because the original models for lemniscates were made of ribbons. Early ribbons were made of wool, so it's really not that surprising that lemniscatus comes from Ancient Greek lemniskos, literally translating as "woolen ribbon". Now, the origin of this word is officially uncertain, but it is entirely possible that there is some kind of unknown connection between it and the Greek island of Lemnos. As these islands were explored by many Phoenician sailors, Lemnos would come from a Proto-Semitic root reconstructed as l-b-n, which meant "white". The plot thickens! The word lemniscate was introduced in the early 1800s, and has remained relatively constant in its niche usage since then.
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