The word muscle came to us in the late fourteenth century from the Middle French word muscle, with basically the same meaning (there were some weird alterations along the way, like muskylle and muscule, but history has canceled those out). This too was borrowed in the fourteenth century, albeit from Latin. In this case, the word in question was musculus, which too meant muscle... figuratively. It carried quite a different literal meaning, that of "little mouse"! The connection occurred because muscles really do sort of look like tiny murine lumps under your skin. Musculus is a diminutive of mus, the normal word for mouse. Through Proto-Italic mus, this is reconstructed as having derived from the Proto-Indo-European word muhs, still meaning "mouse". Curiously, correlations between mice and muscles can also be found in languages from Arabic to Greek to German, as well.
6/10/2020 05:14:34 pm
And in archaic Turkish as well.
6/17/2022 05:35:42 pm
Mussel also comes from little mouse!
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.