Category Archives: Latin roots

The grainy apple, laden with meaning

In my first post, I noted that the words granite and corn share the Latin root granum, granite for its granular texture and corn for its original meaning as the local grain crop, whatever it might be. I recently learned that pomegranate also shares this root, and the pomegranate itself has a fascinating history to boot. The pomegranate… Read More »

Plantigrade animals

I was browsing through the dictionary the other day with a friend, as people do, and we learned about something that bears and humans have in common. I had just bought a 1934 edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, a lovely little book with a soft leather cover, gilt-edged leaves, and a ribbon for marking… Read More »

Of rocks and humans

If you love science, history, and words, it’s not every day that you find a book that addresses all of those interests, and it’s even rarer to find one that’s also engagingly written and great fun to read. I was lucky enough to have just such a book recommended to me recently: The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering… Read More »

On poppies, poop, and newborn babies

In honor of the recent birth of my second grandchild, I thought I’d look at some words related to newborns. Here are a few with interesting stories. Fontanelle: A fontanelle is a gap in the skull of a newborn where the bones haven’t yet grown together. A newborn’s head features several fontanelles in various locations, but the big,… Read More »

Armies of finger bones

I recently finished an editing assignment that had to do with the bones and musculature of the hand. The bones of the fingers (and the toes, as it turns out) are collectively called the phalanges. They’re individually identified by which finger or toe they belong to and by their position. The proximal phalanx is the first one out… Read More »

How is a delphinium like a dolphin?

Sometimes it seems like everything is named for a resemblance to something else. This is a story of the similarity-based links among two flowers, three birds, and a cetacean. Oh, yes: and an amphibian. I recently read a short story in which a New England matron establishes a garden club in her town because she’s the local expert… Read More »

The noble genus Vitis

The wine harvest is nearing its end, so this seems like a good time to look at the different species of grapes that are used for wine. When I first began to take a serious interest in wine, the differences between varieties and species were very fuzzy to me. I’m still sorting out the varieties, most of which… Read More »