In the most recent Avengers movie, Thanos is a super-villain who successfully kills half the universe at random. This got me wondering, however... what kind of a name is Thanos, anyway? Turns out it's a derivation of Thanatos, the Greek personification of death. This makes sense, as both Thanos and Thanatos are heavily associated with Death. It's also pretty interesting, because it tells us that Marvel comic writers were well-versed in their Greek mythology (as this is one of the more obscure gods). Now, forget the proper noun, because thanatos as a word also meant "death" in Ancient Greek. This comes from the prefix thanat-, which was used to create any words involving death in one way or another. Now, there are several proposed Proto-Indo-European roots to this, reconstructed from several purported Sanskrit cognates. It's possible thanat- has origins in dhwene, meaning "to die", denh, meaning "to take off", and theino, meaning "to slay". A reasonable argument may be made for all three of these reconstructions. and it's possible we'll never be sure exactly which is the etymon.
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.