Tetanus is a type of infection that's most distinguishable by the muscular spasm symptoms. Turns out the etymology has a lot to do with that! The word was borrowed in the late fourteenth century from Latin, and even further back hails from Ancient Greek tetanos, which meant "muscular spasm" (obviously the connection is because of the effect tetanus has) but earlier on it also carried the definition of "a stretching" (not too much of a stretch, heh). That comes from the verb teinein, meaning "to stretch", and, through Proto-Hellenic, we can finally derive this from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction ten, same meaning. Teinein is also present in "tone" and "hypotenuse" (we'll cover tone in a future post; hypotenuse is already done), and usage of the word tetanus in literature over time has been decreasing since 1924
Adam Aleksic is a 221-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 University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd