eucalyptus and hell are cognates


The other day, Jim and I were looking at a eucalyptus tree, and I realized that although the eu- part was obvious, I had no idea what the -calyptus part meant.

So I looked it up. It is awfully nice to have a dictionary on my cell phone.

MW11 says:

New Latin, genus name, from eu- + Greek kalyptos covered, from kalyptein to conceal; from the conical covering of the buds

Which is kind of interesting, and good to know, but that wasn't the part that caught my eye. The surprising part was this:

—more at HELL

Say what?

So I checked the etymology for hell, and sure enough:

akin to Old English helan to conceal, [. . .] Greek kalyptein

So there you have it: eucalyptus and hell are distantly related, by way of a Greek word for concealment.

I'm pretty sure this wins the most surprising-to-me etymology of the year award.


Over on Facebook, Terence noted that "apocalypse" is also related. Cool!

"More at HELL" is the best cross-reference ever.

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This page contains a single entry by Jed published on September 22, 2012 10:27 AM.

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