Category Archives: Greek roots

Choler and melancholy

You don’t see the string chol in too many words except for fairly specialized terms in biochemistry or medicine, so I had to wonder whether there’s some connection between the words choleric, melancholy, and cholesterol. There is, and you can throw the word cholera into the mix too. Choler entered English around the 14th century as a borrowing… Read More »

Hurlecane season

Here in the middle of this bafflingly quiet Atlantic hurricane season, I thought I’d look at the words hurricane and typhoon. Both words refer to the same thing, a large tropical cyclone (that is, an organized low pressure system over warm tropical or subtropical water). Which name is used depends on where they occur (hurricanes in the Atlantic… Read More »

Wolf feet and golden leeks

Sometimes it’s fun just to see what you can figure out about something by knowing the Latin or Greek roots of its name. This is also a great way to spot connections between very different things. I was delighted, for example, to find out that the name of the rhododendron has a charming etymology. The rhodo part comes… Read More »

The meteor family of words

Sometimes words that describe the natural world come in a rather confusing clump. I’m hoping to explore many of these groups of words describing interrelated or similar concepts. Because one of the best-known meteor showers, the Perseids, is peaking this weekend, let’s start with the meteor family of words. A meteor, of course, is that thin needle of… Read More »