Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Latin root CAN-, Part 2: The name Carmen and Eng. charm

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 6, "An enchanting chant: The Latin root CAN-", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


The name Carmen and Eng. charm

Most of the words containing the root can‑ in English and Spanish are derived from the passive participle stem cant‑ that contains the suffix ‑t‑ in addition to the root can‑. One curious exception is found in a personal name whose story is quite interesting. It seems that from the root can‑ ‘to sing’, the noun *canmen (can+mĕn) was derived in very early Latin (another early version was presumably *casmen). This noun came to mean a number of related things in Roman culture: ‘a tune, song’, ‘poem, verse’, ‘an oracular response’, ‘a prophecy’, and ‘a form of incantation’ (L&S). The meaning ‘verse’ comes from the fact that verses were often put to song in ancient times. The meaning ‘incantation’, on the other hand, is related to the belief that chanting or the ritual recitation of verses had magical powers, just like religious people today believe that prayer has ‘magical’ powers.

The Latin suffix ‑mĕn or ‑mĭn‑, which is cognate with Greek ‑ma, was used to create nouns that meant ‘a condition’ or ‘the result of an action’. It is found in Latin words such a lumen ‘light’, semen ‘seed’, and germen ‘embryo, bud, shot’ (cf. Eng. luminous, semen, and germ and Sp. luminoso, semen, and germen). This noun presumably changed from canmen to carmen at some point early on by dissimilation of the first of the two nasal consonants, ‑nm‑, from ‑n‑ to ‑r‑ (the same thing happened to the noun germen, from genmen, for example).

This Latin word carmen (genitive: carmĭnis, can‑mĭn‑is) is in a somewhat odd way the source of the woman’s personal name Carmen, common in the Romance languages Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, and not unheard of in the English-speaking world. The name is of Spanish origin and it was popularized outside the Spanish-speaking world when composer Georges Bizet wrote a famous opera in 1875 about a bullfighter and his adulterous wife, whose name was Carmen, which gave the name to the opera as well.

Actually, the Spanish name Carmen does not stem directly from the Latin word that meant ‘song’. Carmen became a name as a variant of the name Carmel or Carmelo, which is the name of a famous coastal mountain range overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Judea (Roman Palestine) that appears in the Christian Bible (New Testament). The name of the mountain range, sometimes called a hill, comes from the Hebrew word כַּרְמֶל (karmel), which means ‘God’s vineyard’, since it is derived from כֶּרֶם (kérem) ‘vineyard (of)’ and‎ אֵל ('él) ‘God’. The mountain range is known as Mount Carmel [kaɹ.ˈmɛɫ] in English and Monte Carmelo in Spanish. In Hebrew, it is הַר הַכַּרְמֶל (transliterated into Latin letters as Har HaKarmel or Har ha Karmell).[1] For Christians the place has special significance because the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Christian tradition, is said to have appeared there on 16 July 1251 to a certain Simon Stock, who went on to found the Carmelite religious order, also known as the Carmelites or, in Spanish, carmelitas.[2]

So, in Roman Catholic Christianity, Carmel came to be used as an epithet of the Virgin Mary at Mount Carmel and eventually it came to be used as a female given name as well in Christian Europe, including in English. In Spanish, however, probably because of mistaken identity, the name was changed to Carmen, based on the Latin word that meant ‘song’. We do not know if Carmen started being used in Spanish instead of Carmel out of mistaken identity between the two words or as a hypocoristic or ‘pet name’ form of the name (Sp. nombre cariñoso or sobrenombre).

Traditionally, the full name of a woman whose name is Carmen in the Spanish-speaking world was María del Carmen, which is based on the Virgin’s epithet Nuestra Señora del Carmen or Virgen del Carmen, which is the equivalent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in English (cf. Part II, Chapter 48). The change from Carmel to Carmen for this woman’s name happened in Spanish, presumably under the influence of the Latin word carmen. The men’s version of this name in Spanish is Carmelo, like the name of the mountain in Spanish. From this name, a feminine version was derived, namely Carmela, which is a variant of Carmen in Spanish, as well as a version of Carmen in Italian and Galego.[3]

Leaving the name Carmen for now, let us turn to actual words derived from Latin carmen. This Latin noun made it into Old French as charme (first attested in the 12th century), meaning ‘chant, magic spell, incantation’, which was one of the meanings that the Latin word had, as we saw. Around the year 1300, this word was borrowed into Middle English, with the same meaning (equivalent to Sp. hechizo), eventually coming to be spelled charm [ˈʧʰaɹm]. The English word developed additional senses over the years (the ‘spell’ sense is now obsolete in Modern French charme and it is archaic in English charm). The ‘attractiveness, attractive quality’ sense of Eng. charm, which is the word’s primary meaning today, is first attested in the 17th century and it is shared with Modern French charme (Sp. encanto, see below; atractivo). The sense ‘a small ornament worn on a necklace or bracelet’ for luck came even later, in the 19th century (COED) (cf. Sp. amuleto (de la suerte) ‘lucky charm’ and pulsera de dijes ‘charm bracelet’). There are a few idiomatic expressions in English that contain the noun or verb charm. The expression to work like a charm translates into Spanish as funcionar a las mil maravillas. The expression to lead a charmed life can be translated as tener mucha suerte en la vida.

Related to the noun charme, Old French had the verb charmer ‘to recite or cast a magic spell’. This verb is first attested in the 13th century and presumably it comes from the Late Latin verb carminare, derived from Latin carmen. The French verb was borrowed into English at around the same time as the noun, also as charm. The original meaning, ‘control or achieve by or as if by magic’ (COED), still exists (Sp. hechizar). However, the main sense of this verb today is one related to the main sense of the noun charm, namely ‘delight greatly’ and ‘use one's charm in order to influence (someone)’ (COED) (Sp. encantar, see below). There is also an adjective derived from the ‘present participle’ of the verb charm, namely charming, meaning ‘very pleasing or attractive’ (DOCE), cf. Fr. charmant (the Spanish equivalent is encantador/a, see below).

Spanish does not have any patrimonial descendants of the Latin noun carmen, though there is a very rare use of carmen as a (very) learned word. Spanish authors have used the Latinism carmen with the sense ‘verse or poetic composition, particularly Latin ones’. This use is first documented in the early 15th century in the works of Íñigo López de Mendoza, first Marquis of Santillana (Sp. marqués de Santillana). The word is very fancy and literary and not known to most Spanish speakers.

In addition, Spanish has a rare noun carmen, used primarily in the Spanish spoken in Granada, Spain, that means ‘estate or farm with a large garden’ (Sp. ‘En Granada, quinta con huerto o jardín’, DLE). An earlier version of this word was carme, which changed to carmen under the influence of the name Carmen and the Latinate Spanish word carmen that we just saw. Curiously, this word is unrelated to the Latin word carmen, but it is indirectly related to the word Carmel, since carmen/carme comes from Arabic كَرْم (karm) that means ‘vineyard’ and is thus clearly related to the Hebrew word that means ‘vineyard’ from which comes the name Carmel that we saw earlier.

There are other words in English and Spanish that look like carmen that are not related to this word. The Spanish color word carmín and its English cognate carmine, mostly pronounced [ˈkʰɑɹ.mɪn], both referring to an intense red color, are not related to the word that we have been discussing, despite the outward similarity (Sp. carmín is also used with the meaning ‘lipstick’, since carmine is very common color used for lipsticks, much like rouge, from the French word meaning ‘red’, is used in English for ‘a red powder or cream used as a cosmetic for coloring the cheeks or lips’, COED). Eng. carmine is an early 18th century loan from either French carmin or from Spanish carmín, which is thought to be a blend of two words: (1) a loanword from Arabic قِرْمِز (qirmiz), from Persian کرمست (kirmist), the name of a scarlet worm used to make dyes (known as kermes in English), and (2) Latin minium ‘red lead, cinnabar’.[4]

Finally, we mentioned earlier that (post-classical) Latin derived a verb carmĭnāre from the noun carmen that meant ‘to make verses’ (L&S), which may be the source of French charmer and, thus, of the English verb to charm. We should mention that Latin had another, homonymous verb carmĭnāre that meant ‘to card’, that is, ‘to comb and clean (raw wool or similar material) with a sharp-toothed instrument to disentangle the fibers before spinning’ (COED). (The English noun card means ‘a toothed implement or machine for this purpose’, COED.) This second verb carmĭnāre was derived from a second Latin noun carmĕn which was the name of the tool used for carding. Spanish has a (today) rare version of this Latin verb, namely carmenar or escarmenar, which means ‘to comb, untangle’, but also ‘to punish’ and ‘to swindle’. As we can see from its origin, this verb is unrelated to the Latin noun carmen that meant ‘song’ (for the phenomenon of homonymy, cf. Part I, Chapter 6, §6.3).[5]

[1] Many places have been named after this place that is sacred to Christians. In the United States, there are towns named Carmel in Indiana, Maine, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. In California, Carmel-by-the-Sea, or just Carmel, is a resort city in Monterey County.

[2] This religious order’s full name is Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and in Spanish, Orden de los Hermanos de la Bienaventurada Virgen María del Monte Carmelo (in Latin: Ordo fratrum Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ de Monte Carmelo). In addition, there is a Catholic mendicant order known as Discalced Carmelites or Barefoot Carmelites (Sp. Orden de los Carmelitas Descalzos), created in 1593 by two Spanish Catholic saints, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross (Sp. Santa Teresa de Ávila and San Juan de la Cruz). This order has three branches, one composed of nuns (Sp. monjas), one of friars (Sp. frailes, who are members of the mendicant religious orders that started in the 12th century), as well as a third, secular branch.

[3] Other versions of this woman’s name in Galego are Carme and Carmiña. The equivalent woman’s name in Portuguese is Carmo and in Catalan, Carme. Carmina is also a version of the name Carmen in Spanish.

[4] The words Sp. carmín and Eng. carmine seem to be related to Sp. carmesí and its English cognate Eng. crimson [ˈkʰɹım.zən], the name of ‘a deep to vivid purplish red to vivid red’ (AHD), which was cremesyn in Middle English. These words are thought to come from post-classical Latin carmosinus or carmusinus, which is ultimately derived from the same Arabic loan qirmiz (see above) and the Latin suffix ‑īn‑(us). As for what these colors look like: carmine      (RGB: 150, 0, 24), crimson      (RGB: 220, 20, 60).

Also from this same ultimate Persian source, comes the English word kermes [ˈkʰɜɹ.mɪz] or kermes dye for ‘a red dyestuff once prepared from the dried bodies of various female scale insects of the genus Kermes’ (AHD), as well as the botanical name Kermes for this genus. The Spanish equivalent is kermes or quermes, since both spellings are allowed. This Persian word in question ultimately comes from (reconstructed) Proto-Indo-Iranian *kŕ̥miš ‘worm’, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷŕ̥mis (same meaning), cf. Sanskrit: कृमि (kṛ́mi).

[5] The Spanish verb that means ‘to card’ (in the sense we just saw), which is semantically related to the verb escarmenar, is cardar, a cognate of Eng. card, which is unrelated to the more common English word card, cf. Eng. to card wool & Sp. cardar lana. (when used for human hair rather than wool, Sp. cardar also means ‘to backcomb’ (British) or ‘tease’ (US) or, in other words, ‘to comb your hair against the way it grows in order to make it look thicker and shape it into a style’, DOCE). English got this card from French carde ‘teasel-head, wool-card’, a word that seems to come from either Spanish carda or Italian carda ‘thistle, teasel, card’, which is ‘a derivative feminine form from Common Romanic cardo (Italian cardo, Spanish cardo, Portuguese cardo), [meaning] ‘thistle’ < medieval Latin cardus < Latin carduus ‘thistle’’ (OED).

The Latin root CAN-, Part 1: Unexpected cognates

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 6, "An enchanting chant: The Latin root CAN-", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Unexpected cognates: The Latin root can

What do the English words chant, cant (meaning ‘insincere talk’ or ‘argot’), and enchant have in common? Furthermore, could they be related to the Spanish words cantar ‘to sing’, canto ‘song’, and encantar ‘to please in great measure’? Indeed, as you may have guessed, what all these words have in common is that they all share the same Latin root, namely can‑. And, of course, each of these three pairs of words are indeed cognates, even if their meanings are not exactly the same and thus constitute what we have been calling false friends (or at least partially false friends).


In this chapter we are going to look at these cognates and many others who are ultimately derived from the very same Latin root can‑, such as the following pairs:


The Latin root căn‑ is primarily a verbal root, found most basically in the third conjugation Latin verb cănĕre  (căn+ĕ+re). This verb was polysemous, that is, had several meanings or sensens (cf. Part I, Chapter 6, §6.5): ‘to sing’, ‘to recite’, ‘to chant’, ‘to sound, play’. In this chapter, we are going to explore the words that derive from this Latin root in English and Spanish. As we will see, most of them have cognates in the other language. This verb canĕre’s principal parts were cănō canĕre, cĕcĭnī, and cantum (for an explanation of principal parts, see Part I, Chapter 8, §


The words that we mentioned above are not derived directly from the root ‑can‑, but rather, from the base or stem of the passive participle form of this verb, namely can‑t‑, which was formed by adding a ‑t‑ to the verbal root, as we can see in the verb’s fourth principal part cantum (the final ‑um is the supine inflexional ending). The vast majority of the descendants of this root in English and Spanish come from the stem can-t‑, as we shall see.

Bare root
Perfect stem
Passive participle stem

The Latin root căn‑, which has the variants ‑cĕn‑ and ‑cĭn‑ in certain combinations, as we shall see, has been reconstructed as *kan‑ in Proto-Italic, the ancestor of the Italic Indo-European languages of the Italic Peninsula (it is thus identical in sound to the Latin root). Going back further in time, this root descends from Proto-Indo-European reconstructed language, spoken more than 6,000 years ago, from which all Indo-European languages descend (cf. Part I, Chapter 3). The Proto-Indo-European root in question has been reconstructed as *kan‑, meaning that it has not changed much, though a more ‘technical’ reconstruction is *keh₂n‑. As in the Latin language, this was also a verbal root, also meaning ‘to sing’.

This Proto-Indo-European root seems to only be found in direct descendant word in English, that is, in a patrimonial word that has descended by direct oral transmission over the centuries, as opposed to one that has been borrowed from other languages, such as the words chant and accent. The word is hen, the word that means ‘a female bird, especially the adult female of the domestic fowl’ (AHD). The connection between the original root that meant ‘to sing’ and the bird would seem to be that the ancestors of English speakers took to calling the hen something like ‘the singer’. The word hen comes Proto-Germanic *hanjō ‘hen’, which contains a reflex of the Proto-Indo-European *kan‑ ‘to sing’ (Proto-Indo-European k changed to h in Germanic languages, cf. Part I, Chapter 3).

Figure 110: Dorking hen[i]

Old English had a related, masculine word hana which meant ‘cock, rooster, male chicken’, a descendant of Proto-Germanic *hanô, which also contained a reflex of the same Proto-Indo-European root *kan‑ (cf. German Hahn and Dutch haan). Old English hana ‘rooster’ was dropped by the Middle English period in favor of cock and rooster, two words that are worth exploring since they tell us a great deal about the source and vicissitudes of the English vocabulary.

The word cock for this bird, pronounced [ˈkʰɒk] or [ˈkʰɑk], is first attested in Old English in the late 9th century. It was spelled coc, cocc or kok in Old English and it was pronounced [ˈkʰok]. has a cognate in French coq ‘cock, rooster’, so the word may have come from that language, or else both got it from somewhere else. The details of these words’ ancestry are not very clear. What is quite clear is that these words have an onomatopoeic origin, that is, they derive from ‘an imitation of the cluck of the bird’ (OED). Proto-Germanic is the ancestor of English and of Frankish, a language that greatly influenced the Latin-based French language in the second half of the first millennium of our era. Frankish was an East Germanic language closely related to Old English. Proto-Germanic had the root *kukko- in the name of this bird, a root that we find in the English word chicken as well, that is the word that is thought to come from Proto-Germanic *kiukīną and which today means ‘a domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat, especially a young one’ (COED).[1]

The word rooster, of course, is just a noun derived from the verb to roost. The verb itself is derived from noun roost, which in Modern English means ‘a place where birds regularly settle to rest at night, or where bats congregate to rest in the day’ (COED). The verb to roost in Modern English, which is used only for birds and bats, means to ‘settle or congregate for rest’ (COED). This word roost first appears as a noun in late Old English, with the form hróst, meaning ‘perch for domestic fowls’ or, more generally, ‘perching- or resting-place of a bird’ (OED). The word rooster started to be used for this bird very recently, in the late 18th century, in the region of Kent in England and, especially in the United States. The reason for this change is that the word cock had become a slang word for the penis starting about a century earlier. In other words, rooster started as a euphemism (cf. Part I, Chapter 6, §6.4.2). An earlier version of the noun rooster was roost cock. By the way, the word penis, which is the technical and ‘decent’ term for the male sexual organ, is a 17th century loanword from Latin.[2]

[1] The word chicken originally meant ‘young domestic fowl’, though the ‘young’ component of the meaning is not a necessary one anymore. Modern English chicken comes from Old English ċicen or cycen, which some think that originally was a diminutive form of the ancestor of the original word cock.
[2] Another ‘vulgar’ term for penis is dick. Dick started as a rhyming nickname for Rick, which is short for Richard, and thus became this name’s hypocoristic. Since this was a very common name in English, it came to be used with the sense of ‘fellow, lad, man’ by the mid-16th century. The sense ‘penis’ is from the late 19th century.

[i] Source:, By 3268zauber [CC BY-SA 3.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons (2018.10.28)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Spices and herbs, Part 20: Eng. horseradish and Sp. rábano picante

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 47, "Spices, herbs, and other condiments", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Eng. horseradish and Sp. rábano picante

Horseradish is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage, and is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. Its botanical name is Armoracia rusticana, though it used to be Cochlearia armoracia in Linnaeus’s classification. The root and the leaves of this plant were used for medicinal purposes during the Middle Ages and the root, which has a very pungent flavor, has been used, scraped or grated, as a condiment in northern Europe for a long time as well.

Horseradish sauce, also known as horseradish or prepared horseradish, is made from the root of this plant and vinegar. This sauce is white to creamy-beige in color and it is commonly used as a condiment in Germanic and Slavic countries in a way similar to how mustard is used (in France it is called raifort). This condiment is not very common in the Spanish-speaking world, however. To the extent that it is used, the horseradish plant is known as rábano picante or rábano silvestre (also rábano rusticano or raíz picante, among other names). The word rábano in the Spanish name of this plant is the common translation for Eng. radish (see below). In the US, what is called horseradish sauce may contain mayonnaise or some other ingredients as a form of dressing. Prepared horseradish is also used in cocktails such as Bloody Mary, and in cocktail sauce more generally, as well as in sandwich spread. In Argentina, horseradish (sauce) is known as pasta de rábano picante, though the immigrants who introduced this condiment into the country also know it as cren (from its German name kren) or jren (from its Slavic name hren).

Figure 192: Horseradish plant.[i]

The word horseradish [ˈhɔɹs.ˌɹæ.dɪʃ] has been the English name for this plant since the late 16th century. Horseradish should not be confused with regular radish, whose botanical name is Raphanus sativus, an edible root plant of the same Brassicaceae family which was domesticated in Europe thousands of years ago. The two plants belong to the same family, Brassicaceae, but regular radish is of the Raphanus genus. The name rábano ‘radish’ in Spanish comes from the Latin name for the plant, which gives name to the genus, namely răphănus ‘radish’, a loanword from Ancient Greek ῥάφανος (rháphanos), a word that meant ‘radish’ but which may have also had other meanings as well. This Greek word may be related to or derived from the word ῥάπυς (rhápus) or ῥᾰ́φῠς (rháphus) meaning ‘turnip’.

The English word radish [ˈɹæ.dɪʃ] (rædic in Old English and radiche in Middle English) is not related to Lat. răphănus, but it is also a Latin borrowing. It comes ultimately from Lat. rādīcem, the accusative form of the noun rādix meaning ‘root’, which is also the source of patrimonial Sp. raíz ‘root’. In other words, Eng. radish and Sp. raíz are cognates. The word root in English is a patrimonial one which descends from the same Proto-Indo-European root as the Latin word rādix, namely *wrād- (or *wréh₂ds), which makes these words cognate as well, if not exact cognates (cf. Part I, Chapter 1, §1.2.[ii]

The name horseradish is obviously derived from the word radish, but what is the horse part all about? You may be surprised to know that it does not have anything to do with horses. Rather, the modifier horse used to be employed figuratively at one time in English with the sense ‘strong, large, coarse’. This same sense of the modifier horse is found in expressions such as horse mushroom, horse-parsley, and horse-weed or horse-mint.[1]

Figure 193: Radishes[iii]

As we mentioned earlier, the horseradish is part of the Brassicaceae family of flowering plants, pronounced [ˌbɹæ.sɪ.ˈkeɪ̯.si.i] in English (Sp. brasicáceas). This family is also know botanically as the Cruciferae [kɹu.ˈsɪ.fə.ɹi] and, more commonly, as the crucifers, the mustards, or even the cabbage family (Sp. crucíferas). The botanical name Brassicaceae is a New Latin term derived from Latin brassĭca ‘cabbage’, and the ending ‑aceae which is used to form the name of taxonomic families of plants, algae, bacteria, and fungi (the equivalent for animals is ‑idae). It comes from the Latin ending ‑ācĕ‑ae, feminine plural of ‑ācĕ‑us, which meant something like ‘resembling’, cf. Eng. (cf. Lat. rŏsācĕus ‘made of roses’, source of Sp. rosáceo/a ‘rose-colored, pinkish’).

The alternative botanical term for this family of plants is Cruciferae, which means ‘cross-bearing’ since it is formed with the root cruc‑ of the noun crux ‘cross’ and the root fer‑ of the verb ferre ‘to bear’ (principal parts: ferō, ferre, tulī/tetulī, lātum). Vegetables from this family are known as cruciferous vegetables ([kɹu.ˈsɪ.fəɹ.əs]; Sp. verduras crucíferas), which, besides radish (Sp. rábano), and horseradish (Sp. rábano picante), include turnip (Sp. nabo), rape (Sp. colza), wasabi or Japanese horseradish (Sp. wasabi or rábano picante japonés), and several varieties or cultivars of the species Brassica oleracea (the cabbages): broccoli (Sp. brécol or brócoli), cabbage (Sp. col, berza, or repollo), cauliflower (Sp. coliflor), kale (Sp. col rizada or repollo rizado).[2]

Let us look now at the botanical name of the horseradish plant, Armoracia rusticana. The genus name Armoracia comes from the Latin word armŏrăcĭa, which meant ‘horseradish’ (variants of this name are armŏrăcĕa and armŏrăcĭum). It is not clear what the source of this word is. Some say it is a loan from Ancient Greek and others a loan or from a Celtic language. Lat. armŏrăcĭa is the original source of the Spanish word remolacha ‘beet’ (beetroot in British English), a very different species of plant, which Corominas thinks came into Spanish from Italian ramolaccio, which is used in this language for both ‘radish’ and ‘horseradish’ (not for ‘beet’). The loanword remolacha replaced the older word betarraga in some dialects of Spanish, though the latter is still used in southern Spain and in American Spanish. (Sp. betarraga was a loanword from French betterave, formed from bette ‘Swiss chard’, Sp. acelga, and rave ‘turnip’, Sp. nabo.)

As for the second part of the horseradish species name, rusticana, this is the feminine form of Latin rūsticānus ‘rustic’, a variant found in Cicero of the word rūsticus ‘of the country, rural, rustic’, much like this word’s antonym urbānus ‘urban’ was derived from the noun urbs ‘city’ by means of the adjectival suffix ‑ān‑ (cf. Part I, Chapter 8). The word is ultimately derived from rūs ‘countryside, farm, village’ (genitive: rūris, accusative: rūs; full root: rūr‑; a word that descends from Proto-Indo-European *rewh₁- ‘free space’, which is also the source of Eng. room). Another adjective derived from this noun was post-classical rūrālis ‘of or belonging to the country, rural, rustic’, source of Eng. rural [ˈɹuɹ.əɫ] and Sp. rural [ru.ˈɾal].

As we mentioned earlier, there was an earlier botanical name for the horseradish plant, the one given to it by the father of modern classification, 18th century Swedish naturalist and botanist Carl Linnaeus, who created the binomial nomenclature and taxonomy of organisms (plants and animals, botanical and zoological nomenclature) that we have seen exemplified in this chapter.[3] In 1753, Linnaeus gave the horseradish plant the name Cochlearia armoracia, but in 1800, this plant was reclassified as belonging to the genus Armoracia by Gaertner, Meyer, & Scherbius. The word Cochlearia is a New Latin one, formed from Latin cochlear ‘spoon’ and the suffix ‑ia, a name that is motivated by the shape of the leaves of plants in this genus.[4]

[1] A horse mushroom is ‘a species of edible mushroom, Agaricus arvensis, larger and coarser than the common mushroom’ (OED). Horse-parsley is ‘a large-leaved umbelliferous plant, Smyrnium Olusatrum’ (OED).

[2] Other vegetables in this species are Brussels sprouts (Sp. coles de Bruselas), Chinese cabbage (Sp. repollo chino or col de China). Kale is also known as collard, borecole, cole, or colewort. These words can refer to the same or to different varieties of the species Brassica oleracea, in particular var. acephala (lit. ‘headless’), since these varieties of cabbage  do not have a heart but rather long edible leaves, known sometimes as collard greens (Sp. berza, col forrajera, among other names). The word kale was originally a variant of the word cole. The word cole is now mostly archaic, except in the compound coleslaw in the US (also spelled cole slaw and cole-slaw), which is the name of ‘a salad of finely shredded raw cabbage and sometimes shredded carrots, dressed with mayonnaise or a vinaigrette’ (AHD). The name coleslaw is an 18th century calque from Dutch koolsla. The word cole was used before for plants in this species, in particular cabbage, kale, and rape. The word cole comes ultimately from Lat. caulis ‘stem, cabbage’, which is also the source of patrimonial Sp. col. The word berza is common in Spain for this vegetable. It comes from Vulgar Latin vĭrdĭa, from Classical Latin vĭrĭdĭa ‘green things, vegetables’, neuter plural form of Latin vĭrĭdis ‘green’ (vĭrdis in Vulgar Latin, the source of Sp. verde ‘green’).

[3]  Linnæus wrote many of his scientific works in Latin, as was common at the time. Linnæus is itself a Latin adaptation of the Lind family name, meaning ‘linden, lime tree’, one that was adopted by Linnæus’s father, Nicolaus (Nils) Ingemarsson, as a family name (Linnæa in the feminine). Linnæus’s family spoke Latin at home and it is said that he learned Latin before he learned Swedish. Linnaeus signed his works written in Latin as Carolus Linnaeus, Carolus being the Latin rendering of his name Carl.

[4] The word cochlear (also cochleare or coclear, among other possibilities) was originally referred to a tool for extracting snails. This is obvious in the name of the instrument, which was originally an adjective derived from cochlea ‘snail, snail-shell’ by means of the adjective forming suffix ‑ār‑(is). This Latin noun is a loanword from Ancient Greek κοχλίας (kokhlías) ‘spiral, snail shell’. This Latin word is the source of patrimonial Sp. cuchara ‘spoon’. Eng. cochlear is an adjective that means ‘of or pertaining to the cochlea’ (Sp. coclear, de la cóclea). The noun cochlea (Sp. cóclea) refers to ‘a spiral-shaped cavity of the inner ear that resembles a snail shell and contains nerve endings essential for hearing’ (AHD).

[i] Cf. “Armoracia rusticana”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

[iii] Source: “Radish 3371103037 4ab07db0bf o” by Self, en:User:Jengod - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Greek letters in the names of fraternities and honor societies

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 52, "The names of fraternities and honor societies", of Part II of the open-source textbook...