Archive for Etymology


I was surprised just now to learn that the word heroin derives from the trademarked name Heroin, and that the latter name was based on the Latin for “hero,” because the drug made users feel like heroes. I initially assumed that that was folk etymology (remember: etymology by sound is not sound etymology), but the […]

Learning Spanish terms via etymology and cognates

As I’ve been slowly learning Spanish via Duolingo, I’ve found the large number of cognates between Spanish and English very useful. Sometimes, false cognates get in the way; the most common example I see of that is the word embarazada, which English monoglots may assume means “embarrassed,” but which instead means “pregnant.” But setting aside […]

Is it esculent?

esculent: edible, fit to be eaten According to dictionary,com, it originates in the 1620s, from L. esculentus, from esca “food,” from PIE *ed- “to eat” (see eat). (Link and usage examples here) I saw it a while back and hadn’t gotten around to following up on the idea that it would make a great first […]


I’ve heard characters described as foils of other characters since I was a kid, but I think I always figured that meant that one character could foil another character’s plans or something. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned the real etymology: Jewelers often put shiny metal foil underneath a gem to […]


I’ve encountered the term hidalgo in various contexts; it refers to Spanish or Portuguese nobility. The thing that surprised me about that term is the etymology: it’s from Old Spanish fijo dalgo, literally meaning “son of something.” Wikipedia suggests: In the Spanish language of that period, in the phrase Hijo de algo, the word algo […]