Yesterday we examined how polecat really means "chicken cat"; today, let's look at the word polemarch and why it's completely different. It would appear that two words, pole and march, are combined (in this military title). While there is a portmanteau, it is a bit odder than expected: polemarch turns out to combine the Ancient Greek words polemos, meaning "war", and arkhos, meaning "leader" (so the portmanteau is of polem and arch). Polemos is of unknown, Pre-Greek origin, but arkhos is reasonably well documented. It is from the verb arkhein, meaning "to be the first", and that in turn is from Proto-Indo-European hergh, meaning "begin". You can see here how the definition shifted from "start" to "lead", and in all honesty, that's not that surprising. So, there you have it: polemarch means "beginning war".
Adam Aleksic is a 217-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, and law. Adam is anxiously awaiting his college rejections and loves writing about himself in the third person.
The Etymology Nerd