or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Light Reading

I keep notes on words that pop up that seem as if they're going to be interesting, but my notes aren't so thorough that I always know where those words came from, unfortunately. A word that cropped up today, at some point, from somewhere, was "lambent", which I noticed because...well, where the hell might it have come from? The suffix "-ent" is obvious enough; it appears in lots of English words denoting a state of being or an action. But "lamb-"? Couldn't have anything to do with the animal!

Luckily, no, because that would be ridiculous. ("Lambent" means "radiant", or "flickering", as a flame.) "Lambent" actually comes from Latin "lambere", "to lick", and this is descended from Indo-European "lab-" or "-leb", with the same meaning.

Hmmm. "Lab-". "Lick". You don't suppose "lab-" is also the source of such lippy words as "labial" and even "lip" itself, do you? Sure you do! Because it is!

"Lamb", by the way, has a preposterous origin; deriving unchanged from the Gothic word, it is related to Greek "elaphos", "deer", and "elaphos" in turn is a cousin to Proto-Germanic "elkh-", which means, yes, "elk".

An elk is not a deer is not a lamb!


Blogger Frank said...

When I saw "elaphos," I thought, "that can't mean 'elephant' is somewhere in there, too!" But, no. "Elphant" does come from Greek, but from "elephās," not "elaphos," and might be ultimately Semitic in origin.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 11:53:00 PM  

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