The word meteor has some pretty airy origins. Arising from the Middle French word meteore, it can be traced through Latin meteorum to Greek meteora, or "heavenly phenomenon" (yes, this is the same as the name for those big monolithic rocks in Greece). This is a conjugated form of meteoros ("high thing", since heaven is pretty high up), which in turn is a portmanteau of the word meta, or "by means of", and aoros, "hovering in the air". Meta (and I know this is meta, but it's related to the prefix meta- that we use) is from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root me, which meant "in the middle", and aoros can first be traced to the Proto-Hellenic word awerro ("to lift") and then to the Proto-Indo-European zero-grade hwr. Of course, meteor ("matter about to hit earth from space") also gave rise to meteorite ("matter from space that hits Earth") and meteoroid ("matter in space that has not yet entered the atmosphere").
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.