The word cuneiform (describing a Mesopotamian writing system) may seem to have origins as exotic as what it describes, but its entire history in fact is exclusive to Europe. The English word stems from the French word cuneiforme, which still pertained to the language, however that derived from the New Latin word cuneiformis, which meant "wedge-like", describing the shapes of the letters. This is a portmanteau, that of cuneus ("wedge") and forma ("shape or figure", possibly from Etruscan or Greek). In one theory, cuneus traces to the Proto-Indo-European root hku, which meant "sting" and possibly connected to "wedge" because the words share an association with pointiness. This, though, is not confirmed, and etymologists have difficulties figuring out where it came from for sure. What we do know is that the word cuneiform has no origins in cuneiform writings.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior 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.