Rapunzel is a famed German fairytale written by the Brothers Grimm, but where does her name come from? Turns out Rapunzel (as a proper noun) is. a German word for "rampion", a type of pink flower, or for "lamb's lettuce". Either way, it's a cute name derived from plants. All of these words, through nominative muddles in Medieval Latin, come from the Latin root radix, which meant "root"- an unsurprising connection to make to plants. The root word for this "root" word is the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction wrad, which meant either "branch" or "root". Rapunzel's usage in English is higher than it's ever been, but it peaked in German during the 1980s (and, obviously, usage in German has been going on for much longer). Time for some etymological relatives: radix gave us the words radish, eradicate (to get rid of the root of something), radius, and radical, (which takes the root of something) while wrad devolved into all of those plus rutabaga, radicant, licorice, wrath, and many others. So Rapunzel has a lot of etymological relatives in the worlds of botany and math. Fun!
Adam Aleksic is a 220-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 College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd