The word opium at first glance seems exotic, with Afro-Asiatic or even Dravidian roots. However, when one analyzes the word closer, one notes the obvious Latin suffix -ium, as well as the endings -oid and -ate for opiod and opiate, respectively. Turns out that when I thought this I was correct, but how were the Romans connected to opium? They got it from the Greeks, who got it from the Persians, who got it from the Indians. The word can therefore follow that path as well: we know it's from Greek opion, "poppy juice". One theory traces this back to the Proto-Indo-European word swokos, meaning "juice". Other routes include origins from Turkish (as afyun, "opium"; this would have Persian roots) and Sanskrit. In any case, we can see an east-to-west diffusion of word and material, and this stuck in our language from Latin.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd