I'm never going to look at an orchid the same way again. These beautiful flowers actually can be traced back to the Greek word orkhis, which meant "testicle". The next place the word cropped up was in Latin, where it became orchis the flower. How did this transtion occur? While it clearly did occur, there are two competing schools of thought on the how of it, both of which make sense. The first idea is that there was a greek myth about a man named Orchis who behaved a little too lewdly and got turned into a plant by gods, thus establishing a link between testosterone and plants. The other is based off the testicular shape of the roots of an orchid, which may have caused this transition. Anyway, over a thousand years later, when Linnaeus was classifying life of all kinds, he accidentally got the Latin root a little wrong and it became orchidacanae, which today is shortened to orchid for all non-botanists. This etymological change is kind of nice, really, because of the shift from something ugly to something quite gorgeous.
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.