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Interesting Etymologies

Posted: Oct 15th, 2021 - Modified: Jun 12th, 2023
Regression (statistics)
Francis Galton was studying how tall people tend to have children shorter than they are. Their descendants’ heights ‘regress’. From this was coined the term regression to the mean, and from there ‘regression’ grew to refer to any of a broad array of techniques for studying the relationships between variables.
Capital and per-capita
Both derive from the latin capita, meaning head. ‘Per-capita’ refers to human heads, of course. While ‘Capital’ refers to heads of cattle, which would now be classified as a specific kind of capital, falling under the category of cultivated biological resources.
from Greek oikonomikos originally referred to the proper management of a household. (The word has since expanded in meaning, but household decisions are still a large part of the field of economics.)
It means ‘barn’, in a roundabout way. “Alphabet” comes from “alpha beta” (AB), the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, which in turn comes from “aleph beth” (𐤁𐤀), the first two letters of the Phoenician alphabet. “Aleph” also meant “cattle”, and “beth” also meant “house”. It is thought that the the forms of the letters are simplified representations of Egyptian hieroglyphs for the same (𓃾 𓉐). So “alphabet” descends from “cattle house”, a barn.
From the Japanese 大君 (taikun), a title used for the shogun which literally translates to “big boss”. After Commodore Perry made contact with the US, the word was used as a nickname for Abraham Lincoln.
From a Latin word meaning ‘teacher’. IE, a Doctorate is a certificate saying you know enough about a field to teach it. Nowadays, the word is most commonly used as short for “medical doctor”, which can lead to confusion.
“Lord” means “bread guardian”. It’s a contraction of “loaf ward”, or rather the Old English hlafweard.
From com-panis, meaning ‘together-bread’. A companion is someone you share bread with.
Originally refering to suppa, the bread soaked in broth.
Originally meaning a steam bath.
From vulgar latin salata, meaning salted. Short for herba salata, meaning salted herbs. A pile of gherkins? Totally a salad.
Nowadays refers to the ability to wait, or to someone who is sick. Originally meant the ability to endure suffering.
From wer (manly men) + ald (age, period of time). So “world” means “age of man”.
Middangeard or Midgard
Middle enclosure. “Gard” has the same origin as “garden” and “yard”.
Cosmos and Mundus
“Cosmos” comes from a Greek word meaning “orderly arrangement”. (Same root as “cosmetic”. One refers to the order of natural laws. The other refers to the order of fashion accessories.) “Mundus” comes from the latin equivalent.
Someone entrusted with secrets
Small stones
The breaking and re-setting of bones
(and in general the reunion of broken parts)
Measurement of the Earth
solving a problem by loosening things
Study of a place
from Latin statisticum “state affairs”, from Italian statista “one skilled in statecraft,”
Originally spelt clew, meaning a ball of yarn. Refers to the clew Theseus used to navigate the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.

Unless otherwise mentioned, the source for each of these is EtymOnline

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