Today, I was looking at some cameos (carved gemstones) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Medici exhibit and I began wondering if there was any connection to the word cameo in filmmaking. Apparently there is! Because there was a common practice to engrave silhouettes onto cameos, a new definition of "brief sketch of a person" emerged for the word. That took on a more literary meaning in the 1850s, then to a brief appearance in a play in 1928, and eventually on to cinema! Through Italian, the artistic cameo comes from a Medieval Latin word with the same meaning spelled camaeus, and that has an unknown origin. However, there are two main theories: it could come from a Persian word meaning "ornamental stone" or an Arabic word meaning "buds of a flower". Either way, quite interesting.
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.