The word hermaphrodite was first borrowed into the English language at the end of the fourteenth century from Latin hermaphroditus, which in turn comes from Ancient Greek hermaphroditos, with the same meaning. That used to be a proper noun, through, specifically describing the mythological child of Hermes and Aphrodite (hence the name) who got blended with a naiad named Salmacis to create a single person with both male and female sex characteristics. Hermes has an unknown etymology which is thought to be possibly non-Indo-European, and Aphrodite could be from the Phonecian word Ashtaroth, which would further be from Aramaic Ishtar and eventually Proto-Semitic and Proto-Afro-Asiatic. Usage of the word hermaphrodite has been relatively constant since the beginning of the twentieth century.
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.