Spandex is a well-known elastic material, but where does the name for it come from? It certainly has an exotic-sounding ring to it. Well, that's because it's not a natural formation; it's actually an anagram of the word expands! The term was coined in 1959 by an unknown individual, which is too bad, as they really deserve credit for one of the few anagram etymologies out there. Now, onto the rest of it! The word expand comes from Anglo-Norman espaundre, which comes from Latin expandere, which literally meant "to spread out". This is because it is comprised of the root pandere, meaning "to spread", and the prefix ex-, meaning "out". We've already seen ex- on a plethora of occasions, and it comes from a Proto-Indo-European root sounding like hegs or egs and carrying a definition of "out" as well. Pandere, meanwhile, comes from PIE peth, also "spread". Very little semantic change there but still a fascinating origin overall!
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