I guess I never stopped before to consider where the word pixel comes from, but I sure didn't expect it to be a portmanteau of pix (as in the informal plural of pictures) and the first part of element. The term was first written down in 1965 by NASA scientist Frederic Billingsley to describe frames of videos sent back by space probes. Billingsley says he got the word from another scientist working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Keith McFarland, but McFarland doesn't know for sure who told him about the word. The word pix as meaning "pictures" was first used in a 1932 edition of Variety magazine, the phrase picture element was actually in use since the nineteenth century, and pixilation is a completely separate word referring to the use of real people in stop-motion animation.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior 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.