Musk is a strong-smelling hormonal odor secreted from the preputial glands of male deer. The word was first used in 1394, when it was spelled muske; other spellings included musce, musche, musco, musque, and muisske, until the final vowel was dropped sometime in the late seventeenth century. Going back to find the etymology of the word, we take a path through Old French musc, Latin muscus, Greek moskhos, and Persian mushk, which still had the same definition. Here it gets really weird: mushk is from the Sanskrit noun muska, meaning "testicle", because the shape of the preputial glands was thought to resemble a human scrotum. And that's a diminutive of mus, meaning "mouse", because testicles were thought to look like little mice! Finally, it all goes back to Proto-Indo-European muhs, which is also the source of the English word for "mouse".
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.