Meconium is a word for the slimy greenish substance that constitutes the first excretion of newborn infants. The word was borrowed at the beginning of the seventeenth century from Ancient Greek mekonion, meaning "opium". The connection is that physicians perceived a physical resemblance to tar-like raw opium. Mekonion is from mekon, which meant "poppy" and is most likely Indo-European due to cognates like in Serbian mak and German mohn. Interestingly, through French and the suffix -ine (used for naming chemical compounds), mekonion also gave us the nineteenth-century word for the morphine-based drug codeine. Since their respective introductions, usage frequency of meconium has closely mirrored that of codeine, peaking in the early 1980s.
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.