The modern day word pen used to mean "to fly". In its Proto-Indo-European roots, it was said petron and meant "wing" or "fly". Its Sanskrit root, patram, also meant "wing" or "feather". The Romans adopted this in Old Latin as petna or pensa, and this transitioned to regular Latin as penna or pinna, both of which now meant "feather" or "plume". Then, as barbarians got annoyed with Roman occupation and went off to burn their cities, certain words were picked up by the Gauls and Germanic peoples. The French, particularly, were important, as they took the word and made it pene, which still meant "feather". Later, as they were looking for words for a quill, they double-dipped with pene to make it mean "writing utensil" as well, since all their writing utensils consisted of feathers and ink. The French later dropped this newfangled definition in honor of old times or something, but the English picked it up, kept the pronunciation, dropped the e, and created pen. This continued to refer to the quill until Petrache Poenaru went along and made the modern pen, keeping the archaic, epynomous quill as its name in the English translation. Fun, right?
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