Beelzebub is synonymous with the devil nowadays, but it used to have such a different meaning. When the word entered English as Belzebub, it described a Philistine god from the Old Testament. This, through Latin, has its origin in the Greek word Beelzeboul, Eventually, it goes all the way back to the Hebrew word Ba'alzvuv, which literally meant "lord of the flies" because the god in question was basically that. Ba'alzvuv is a portmanteau of ba'al, meaning "lord", and zvuv, meaning "fly"; the semantics here are unsurprising. Ba'al has two possible origins: it may be traced to the Proto-Semitic word ba'l, meaning "husband" and "owner" (from which we can draw an interesting comparison to gender roles back then), or it could be named after the Akkadian god Belu. Zvuv, keeping its definition all the way, is thought to be from Proto-Semitic dbb, from Proto-Afro-Asiatic dupp. Anyway, you better watch out for winged insects in the future, because they may report on you to their lord, the Devil.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.