The title may sound like a bad horror movie, but it's a legitimate etymological connection. Our word sarcophagus comes from French sarcophage, from Latin sarcophagus, from Greek sarkophagos, which meant "a coffin, particularly made of limestone", a type documented by Pliny the Elder. However, sarkophagos previously meant "carnivorous" or "flesh eating". This is very creepy but had nothing to do with mummies rising; in fact, the coffin type was so named because it was commonly believed that in limestone, bodies decay more quickly, and within a couple of weeks, all the flesh would be eaten away. Thus, we can trace this further to sarx, meaning "meat" or "flesh", and phagein, or "to eat". Also present in sarcasm, sarx goes back to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word twerk, or "to cut" (as in dining). Phagein is also PIE, tracing to the zero-grade bhhg, or "to divide" (as in dining). Additionally, usage of sarcophagus peaked in the 1870s, when they were discovering a bunch of them. So many interesting origins, so little time.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
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.