Archive for the Category: Greek

It’s very sticky

I discovered (via Inky Fool) an alternative word for tennis today – sphairistike [sfɛəˈrɪstɪkɪ], which sounds a bit like the phrase ‘it’s very sticky’. This was the name coined by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield (pictured right), who invented (lawn) tennis in 1873, and it comes from the Greek σϕαιριστική (sfairistiké), or ‘(skill) in playing at […]

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An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages: – Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”) – Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”) – […]

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I learned a new word today – apocope [əˈpɒkəpiː], which is the loss of phonemes from the ends of words, particularly unstressed vowels. It comes from the Greek word ἀποκόπτω (apokoptein), which means ‘cutting off’ and comes from ἀπό (apo-), ‘away’ and κόπτω (koptein), ‘to cut’. Apocope is a mechanism which erodes some inflections and […]

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Cellar door words

The term cellar door has, according to J. R. R. Tolkien and a number of other writers, a particularly pleasing sound, even though its meaning isn’t anything special. An article in the New York Times discusses the origins of this idea, an example of phonaesthetics*, and cites a 1903 novel by Cyrus Lauron Hooper, Gee-Boy, […]

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Omphaloskepsis /ˈɒmfələʊˈskɛpsɪs/ is an interesting word I came across today that refers to the practice of contemplating one’s navel as an aid to meditation. It comes from the Ancient Greek ὀμϕαλός (omphalos – navel) and σκέψις (skepsis -inquiry). Apparently omphaloskepsis is used in yoga and sometimes in the Eastern Orthodox Church and it helps in […]

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Gendarmes et policiers

Yesterday there was some discussion of the police at the French Conversation Group – one of the members is a former policeman. We use the word policier, but later I remembered that another French word for policeman is gendarme, and it suddenly dawned on me that gendarme probably comes from gens d’armes (armed man). I […]

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Sproange /spɒˈrændʒ/ is another name for the sporangium /spɒˈrændʒɪəm/ of a plant, which the OED defines as “a receptacle containing spores; a spore-case or capsule.” Sporange comes via Latin from the Greek σπορά spore + ἀγγεῖον (vessel). Sporange is also the only English word that rhymes with orange, a factoid I discovered on Lexiophiles, which […]

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Yesterday I discovered that the French word for bone, os, is pronounced /ɔs/ in the singular, as I suspected, but /o/ in the plural [source]. Os is also used in English as a zoological and medical term for bone and is pronounced /ɒs/ (UK) or /ɑs/ (US). Final consonants of French words aren’t usually pronounced, […]

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I came across the word doxastic (/dɒkˈsæstɪk/) today in Being Wrong – Adventures in the Margin of Error by Katryn Schulz. It means “pertaining to beliefs” and appears in the expression used in philosophy, ‘First Person Constraint on Doxastic Explanation’, or as Schulz terms it ”Cuz It’s True Constraint’. It means that we have only […]

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There was quite a bit of talk about ventriloquism on an episode of QI I watched recently, mainly because one of the guests was a ventriloquist. The word ventriloquism comes for the Latin words venter (stomach, belly, womb) and loquī (to speak) so it means “to speak from the stomach”. It was known as εγγαστριμυθία […]

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