Everybody remembers eugenics as the Nazi attempt to kill off anyone who was not contributing to society the way they wanted. Considering all the nasty deaths involved, the origin is quite the oxymoron. Though eugenics were practiced in Ancient Greece (think Sparta), the word itself comes from Greek but not directly: it was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, who attributed the Greek word eugenes ("well born") to the purpose (the theory, of course, being that eugenics would culminate in a better born and bred super-race). The prefix of that word is eus ("good"), from Proto-Indo-European hes, "to be". Meanwhile, the root is gignomai, which meant "breeding" and is from Proto-Indo-European genh ("to beget", also the root of gene, you may recall). Though eugenics as a practice has decreased recently, usage of the word has increased significantly, almost to the previous maximum in the early 1900s.
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