In this adventure we’re uncovering the origins of the word bone.
A bone is:
- A composite material consisting largely of calcium phosphate and collagen and making up the skeleton of most vertebrates.
- Any of the components of an endoskeleton, made of bone.
It comes from Middle English bon (bone), from Old English bān [bɑːn] (bone, ivory), from Proto-Germanic bainą [ˈbɑi̯.nɑ̃] (leg, bone), from *bainaz [ˈbɑi̯.nɑz] (straight), from PIE *bʰeyh₂- (to hit, strike, hew, cut) [source].
Words from the same roots include been (leg, limb, side) in Dutch, Bein (leg) in German, ben (leg, bone, sinecure) in Danish, bít (to beat, fight) in Czech, and buain (harvest, reap, cut) in Scottish Gaelic [source].
Incidentally, in Old English a poetic way to refer to the body was bānhūs [ˈbɑːnˌhuːs] (“bone house”). It was also called a sāwolhūs [ˈsɑː.welˌhuːs] (“soul house”) or feorhhūs [ˈfe͜orˠxˌhuːs] (“life/soul house”) [source].
Here’s a song in Scottish Gaelic about cutting the bracken (buain na rainich) called ‘Tha mi sgìth’ (I’m tired), sung by Brian Ó hEadhra:
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