Sunday, 16 July 2017


Overheard a conversation about horoscopes the other day. In truth I only listened in the first place as I thought the topic had been astronomy.

With the conversation fading away, I began thinking of constellations and wondered where they got their names. Now while we only have twelve signs of the zodiac - Monty Python fans will argue there are thirteen, remember Derry and Toms? – but there are many more constellations and thus we shall take a look at where these names came from.

Andromeda – from the Greek it means ‘mindful of her husband’.
Aquarius – is Latin for ‘water carrier’.
Aquila – is the Latin word for ‘eagle’.
Ara – is Latin for ‘the altar’.
Aries – is the Latin for ‘ram’ and related to arietare ‘to butt’.
Auriga – another Latin term meaning ‘a charioteer’.
Bootes – is from the Greek meaning ‘herdsman’ or ‘ploughman’, but literally translating as ‘ox-driver’.
Camelopardalis – the Greek word for the ‘giraffe’, and derived from the name of the ‘camel’ and the ‘leopard’ as it has a long neck, like the camel, and spots, like the leopard.
Cancer – from the Greek karkinos which, like the modern word, has three meanings in ‘crab’ and ‘tumour’ as well as the name of the constellation. Clearly all three share a root, this being Proto-Indo-European qarq ‘to be hard’.
Canis Vernatici – the Latin for ‘hunting dogs’.
Capricornus – Latin again for ‘having horns like a goat’.
Cetus – Greek for ‘the whale’.
Chameleon – Greek for ‘lion on the ground’.
Columba – is the Latin for ‘dove’.
Coma Berenices – or ‘Berenice’s hair’, the Egptian queen’s name meaning ‘bringer of victory’.
Corvus – is the Latin word for ‘raven’.
Crater – in this context it is the Latin word for ‘cup;.
Cruz – features the Spanish word for ‘cross’.
Cygnus – is the Greek word for ‘swan’.
Delphinus – the Greek for ‘dolphin’.
Dorado – is Portuguese for ‘dolphinfish’.
Draco – the Latin word for ‘dragon’.
Equuleus – the Latin for ‘little horse’.
Fornax – is the Latin for ‘furnace’.
Gemini – is Latin for ‘twins’.
Grus – is Latin for ‘crane’.
Hercules – means ‘glory of Hera’, the name ‘Hera’ meaning ‘fame’.
Hydra – from the Greek for ‘water’.
Hydrus – is the Greek for ‘water serpent’.
Indus – is the Sanskrit word for ‘river’.
Lacerta – is the Latin word for ‘lizard’.
Leo – the Latin word for ‘lion’.
Leo Minor – and Latin for ‘small lion’.
Lepus – the Latin for ‘hare’.
Libra – Latin for ‘balance’ or ‘pair of scales’.
Lupus – is the Latin for ‘wolf’.
Lynx – is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European leuk ‘light’.
Lyra – the Latin for ‘lyre’.
Monoceros – the Greek word for ‘unicorn’.
Musca – the Latin for ‘fly’.
Octans – is from the name of the navigational instrument named from the Latin for ‘eighth part of a circle’.
Opiuchus – this means ‘the serpent-bearer’.
Orion – some sources suggest Akkadian for ‘the light of heaven’.
Pavo – features the Latin word for ‘peacock’.
Pegasus – thought to come from the Greek for ‘spring, well’ from whence Pegasus was born.
Perseus – some sources suggest a Pre-Greek origin meaning ‘waste, sack, destroy’.
Phoenix – perhaps originally referring to ‘Phoenician’ or ‘purple-red’.
Pictor – Latin for ‘painter’.
Pisces – is the Latin plural for ‘fish’.
Polaris – Latin for ‘the pole star’.
Puppis – literally ‘the poop deck’, as in the part of the ship.
Pyxis – is Latin for a ‘small medicinal box’.
Sagitta – the Latin word for ‘arrow’.
Sagittarius – is Latin for ‘archer’.
Scorpio – simply the Latin for ‘scorpion’.
Sculpta – is Latin for ‘sculptor’.
Serpens – is Greek for ‘the serpent’.
Sextans – is named for the astronomical sextant, its name meaning ‘one sixth part’.
Taurus – is Latin for ‘bull, bullock’.
Triangulum – is Latin for ‘triangle’.
Tucana – refers to the ‘toucan’ and comes from a Tupi word, they indigenous to the region now part of modern Brazil, tukana which is probably imitative of its call.
Ursa Major – as many will know this is also known as the Great Bear, although strictly the translation from Latin should be ‘the great she-bear’.
Ursa Minor – unsurprisingly this is Latin for ‘the lesser she-bear’.
Vela – named from the Latin for ‘sails’.
Virgo – is Latin for ‘the virgin’, a word which probably began referring to a plant or crop which had yet to produce seed in something akin to ‘young shoot’.
Volans – was originally known as Piscis Volans or ‘flying fish’.

Incidentally if you want to know the origin of Derry and Toms, they were a London department store who went out of business in 1971 and were named after founders Charles Derry and Joseph Toms.

For those wondering what happened to some of the omissions, those have never been understood and, etymologically speaking, are simply proper names.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Seas and Oceans

Chose the perfect week for a UK holiday this year - not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the low thirties. In an attempt to keep a little cooler we took many boat trips around the Devon coastline. Obviously we all know the origins of the English Channel, etymologicially not geologically - 'English' from 'England' or 'the land of the Angles' and 'channel' correctly referring to 'a bed of running water' in the 14th century (interestingly it was the British Channel prior to 1825) - but I wondered about the origins of others seas and oceans. Doubtless those enjoying the waters of more exotic locations, such as the Irish Sea, will wonder how the names Wonder no more.

Adriatic - named from the town of Atria, modern Adria, in Picenum near Venice. At the time it was a seaport but is now more than 10 miles from the coast. This comes from atra from 'black' or 'the black city'.

Aegean - traditionally named for Aegeus of Greek mythology, the father of Theseus who threw himself to his own death when thinking his son had perished. However the more likely explanation is the Greek aiges 'waves', which is not unlike the Latin aqua from Proto-Indo-European akwa 'water'.

Andaman - thought to come from the Andaman Islands, itself said to be from Andoman, a form of Hanuman, the Sanskrit name of the Indian god.

Arabian - from Arab, itself traceable to the Greek Arabos probably meaning 'inhabitant of the desert' and related to the Hebrew arabha 'desert'.

Aral - in the Turkic tongues aral means 'island' or 'archipelago' and can thus be understood as 'sea of islands', of which some 1,100 were once found here. Correctly the Aral Sea had been the fourth largest lakes in the world but irrigation projects have diverted waters and there are now four small lakes of higher salinity.

Azov - another likely named from a settlement on the shore, here Kipchak Turkish azaq meaning 'lowlands'. However another origin theory points to the Cuman prince Azum who was killed defending a local town in 1067.

Baltic - until the 11th century this was the Mare Suebicum, Latin for 'the sea of the Suebi', the local people who may, depending upon which source is accepted, have named themselves as 'one's own' or were named by the Celts as 'vagabonds'. The modern name is unknown until the German chronicler Adam of Bremen and, while the origin is disputed, may come from the Germanic belt or 'strait' as this is still used for two Danish straits known as the Belts.

Beaufort - an Arctic sea named after hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort, a naval officer who lived in Ireland but was descended from the French Huguenots and who had the Beaufort wind scale named after him. Despite being self-educated he was associated with contemporary mathematicians of the calibre of John Herschel and Charles Babbage.

Bering - named for the Danish navigator Vitus Bering, the first European to explore the region extensively.

Black - one of four 'coloured seas' in English but one which is difficult to see as in any way darker than others. Thus the modern idea is this related to the Red Sea as the 'north sea' (see below).

Caribbean - named after the Carib people (which is why the American pronunciation is correct). The Kalina people are how they know themselves, the western name comes from the Spanish Caribe, a bad pronunciation of the Arawakan kalingo 'brave ones' or kalino 'strong men'.

Caspian - named for the people who lives on the shores of the Caspian Sea, themselves originally from the Caucasus, who were named Caspii or 'whites' by the Romans.

Coral - abounds with coral as evidenced by the Great Barrier Reef. The word 'coral' is of semitic origin, related to Hebrew goral 'small stone' and Arabic garal 'small pebble' and originally only applied to the red coral found in the Mediterranean.

Dead - the Dead Sea is named because of its salt content (the Bible refers to it as the Salt Sea). Now people will jump up and down and claim all the sea is salty, yet the Dead Sea's salinity at 34.2% is great deal higher than the 3% to 4% of the vast oceans of the world. It is known as the Dead Sea although it does support a very small population of bacteria and microbial fungi and is correctly a lake.

Galilee - is named for the province of Palestine and derived from the Hebrew root galil used here to mean 'district' but usually meaning 'circle'.

Irish - named after the Irish inhabitants of Ireland, itself derived from the Old Irish Eriu and Proto-Celtic Iveriu and understood as 'fat' as in 'prosperous'.

Ionian - of unknown origins but ancient Greek writers attributed it to the myth of Io, who was said to have swum the sea. The name is probably pre-Greek and could be related to Sanskrit yoni 'womb' and reference to a goddess.

Java - named after the most populous island on the planet, itself of disputed origins. This could be from the jawa-wut, a plant also known as foxtail millet grown in India since before records began, and certainly grown in China some 8,000 years ago. Other suggestions point to jau 'distant, beyond' or Sanskrit yava 'barley', or even a Proto-Indonesian word Iawa meaning 'home'.

Labrador - named after the Portuguese explorer Joao Fernandes Lavrador. His family name is 'Fernandes', the last element shows he was a landowner for lavrador means 'farmer, plougher'.

Ligurian - named after the ancient Ligures people who inhabited the area known as Iberia. Little is known of these Celtic people, which may be due to the suggestion their name is Pre-Celtic and only the suffix asco 'village' has survived.

Marmara - the sea, once again, took its name from the island of Marmara. The place is a rich source of marble, which is why the Greek marmaron meaning 'marble'.

Mediterranean - the name is of Latin derivation, where mediterraneus means 'inland' or 'middle of the land', which is a good description of the sea which, one day, will be very much an inland sea.

North - this came to English from Dutch Noordzee as opposed to the Zuiderzee or 'South Sea'. It has also been known as the German Sea, German Ocean, Frisian Sea, Mare Frisicum, and in different languages today as the Nordsoen, Noordzee, Mer du Nord, Noardsee, Nordsee, Noordsee, Weestsiie, Nordsjoen, NNordsjon, An Cuan a Tuath, Noordzee and others.

Norwegian - clearly derived from the country of Norway, itself named for 'the northern way' which is how the English viewed it.

Okhotsk - named after the region giving its name to the town of Okhotsk, the first Russian settlement in the Far East with a name derived from the river Okhota, itself a Tungus word meaning 'river'. Hence a river name gave a district name, which gave a settlement its name, and then to the sea - of of which mean 'river'.

Red - some think this is named from the algal growth or corals, however this does not seem true of the majority of the sea for most of the year. Hence the modern idea is this refers to the 'southern sea' in relation to the Black Sea being the northern version.

Ross - along with Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf, the Ross Sea was named after British explorer James Clark Ross who came here in 1841 and whose name is a Gaelic word meaning 'headland'.

Sargasso - named after the Sargassum seaweed which grows in these calm waters. The seaweed was named by Portuguese sailors after a species of rock rose found in water wells in their homeland, Helianthemum. Sargassum is used in Chinese medicine as the answer to "heat phlegm" (neither do I), and of greater interest is the Sargasso Sea, which is unique in having no land borders.

South China - oddly enough it washes the southern shores of China.

Timor - comes from the island of Timor, itself derived from the Malay word timur meaning 'east'.

Tyrrhenian - named after the Tyrrhenian people but a name which is difficult to define. This is due to every early reference we know coming from the Greeks but it is not from a Greek word. It has been connected to an early loan word tursis or 'tower' but this lacks support as we have no idea how this was used. What does seem likely, however, is this shares an origin with the Tusci, the Latin exonym for the Etruscans.

Yellow - named from the sand storms across the Gobi Desert which sprinkles sand particles on the surface waters to make the sea appear yellow.

There are also a number of minor seas around the Antarctic continent, of which we have only examined the Ross Sea. Some interesting names and thus, working clockwise from the Ross Sea, we find .....

Amundsen Sea - named by Norwegian Nils Larsen in 1929 after his compatriot Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, doing so on December 14th 1911. His surname means 'the son of the respectful protector'.

Bellinghausen Sea - named after explorer Admiral Thaddeus Bellinghausen who explored the area in 1821.

Weddell Sea - named after Scotland's James Weddell, he explored this area from 1823 but was not named such until 1900.

Scotia Sea - this was not named from Scotland directly, but after the vessel Scotia of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition in 1902-04 under William Bruce, although the sea was not officially named in 1932.

Lazarev Sea - a name coined in 1962 to honour Russian admiral Mikhail Lazarev but, despite this appearing on Soviet and Russian maps, it failed to gain international approval in 2002.

Riiser-Larsen Sea - another name din 1962, this time to honour Nowegian explorer and aviator Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, who is regarded as the founder of the Norwegian Air Force. Again it appears only on Soviet and Russian maps, failing to be recognised internationally in 2002.

Cosmonauts Sea - yet again named in 1962 and only appearing on Soviet and Russian maps and also rejected at the 2002 international conference. The name was chosen to mark the first manned craft to journey into space and is an interesting word. It is formed of two Greek elements, 'cosmos' and 'nautes'. Here the suffix is 'sailor' derived from a Proto-Indo-European nau 'boat', while the prefix is Greek kosmos 'order'. Interesting to see one of the most recent words is based on a language of one of the earliest civilizations together with what must have been among our earliest Europen words.

Cooperation Sea - another only found on Soviet and Russian maps, named in 1962 and dismissed forty years later, it was meant to mark the idea of international cooperation on this massive continent - which seems to have been overlooked by the international committee of 2002.

Davis Sea - at last one receiving international approval, it was named by Sir Douglas Mawson, leader of the Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14 after Captain J. K. Davis, second in command of the expedition and in command of the Aurora.

Mawson Sea - as above except named by the International Hydrographic Organization of 2002 for the commander of the expedition of 1911-14.

D'Urville Sea - named after French explorer and officer Jules Dumont d'Urville.

Somov Sea - for a change not named by the Russians in 1962 but in 2002, the outcome remained the same as it was never approved. It would have honoured Russian oceanologist and polar explorer Mikhail Somov (1908-73) who commanded the first Soviet Antarctic Expedition between 1955 and 1957.

So interested had I been to define the less well known names, I was in danger of omitting the major areas of ocean in the world - or maybe not.

Pacific - named by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan as the Mar Pacifico as he encountered favourable winds on the 'peaceful sea'.

Atlantic - named for the famed island of Atlantis, itself the 'island of Atlas' (the Titan who held up the world and not the book of maps).

Indian - named after India, itself derived from Indus, a river name from Old Persian word Hindu, itself from the Sanskrit word Sindhu which was the Sanskrit name for the Indus River and which means simply 'river' or 'stream'.

Arctic - from the Greek word artikos or 'near the Bear'. Note this is 'Bear' not 'bear' and thus doesn't refer to the mammal but the constellation of either Ursa Major (the Great Bear) or Ursa Minor (the Little Bear) - the latter more likely as it contains Polaris, the Pole Star or the North Star.

English spellings have been used as the piece is written in English

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Subject of volcanoes came up the other day when the quizmaster asked "At 6,893 metres (22,615 feet) Ojos del Salado is the world's highest what?" Of course I got the answer completely wrong, as it is the world's highest volcano and not the world's highest ski lift. (No comments please!) However I did wonder if, had I known the origin and/or meaning of Ojos del Salado, the answer was staring me in the face. So I looked and produced the following list of the world's highest volcanoes, dormant and active, to see how they got their names. The list includes every volcano over 6,000 metres, all of which are found in South America, and beginning with the highest.

Ojos del Salado - 6,893 metres (22,615 feet) - is also the highest active volcano on the planet. This name means 'the eyes of the salty one', a reference to the large deposits of salt forming within the glaciers giving the appearance of eyes.

Monte Pissis - 6,793 metres (22,287 feet) - not named after a waterfall but after a French geologist working for the Chilean government. Pedro Jose Amadeo Pissis.

Nevado Tres Cruces - 6,748 metres (22,139 feet) - this is Spanish for 'three crosses'.

LLullaillaco - 6,739 metres (22,110 feet) - from the Kunza tongue where llulla means 'lies, deceit' and llaco 'water'. Here the message speaks of how meltwater, which would normally be seen as a source of fresh water, is quickly absorbed into the soil.

Cazadero - 6,660 metres (21,850 feet) - a Spanish name meaning 'a place for the pursuit of game'.

Nevado Tres Cruces Central - 6,629 metres (21,749 feet) - is, as above, 'the central three crosses'.

Incahuasi - 6,621 metres (21,722 feet) - is easy to see when we know this is Quechua for 'Inca house'.

Tupungato - 6,570 metres (21,555 feet) - means 'star viewpoint' in the Huarpe language.

Nevado Sajama - 6,542 metres (21,463 feet) - while nevado is Spanish for 'snowy' I'm afraid I drew a blank on Sajama. Any suggestions?

Ata - 6,501 metres (21,329 feet) - whether the Ata people took their name from the mountain or vice versa is not clear, but in both cases likely means 'father' or perhaps 'ancestor'.

Coropuna - 6,425 metres (21,079 feet) - means 'shrine on the plateau', this is the site of an irrigation scheme by the Incas which remains the highest ever known anywhere in the world.

Cerro El Condor - 6,414 metres (21,043 feet) - is simply 'the mountain of the condor'.

Parinacota - 6,348 metres (20,827 feet) - an Aymara name meaning 'the flamingo lake'.

Ampato - 6,288 metres (20,630 feet) - another from the Aymara language, this meaning 'frog'.

Chimborazo - 6,267 metres (20,561 feet) - and although not officially the highest point on the Earth it is at its peak, by virtue of the Earth not being a perfect sphere but having an equatorial bulge, the furthest point from the centre of the Earth. However until the beginning of the 19th century this was considered the highest point on the planet and would still be so, if convention didn't measure land above sea level. Its etymology is disputed, perhaps Quechua chimba 'on the other side' joins razu 'ice, snow' to refer to the snowline. Another idea points to the Cayapa tongue giving 'women of the ice' and a third idea offers Jivaro for 'throne of the ice god'.

Pular - 6,233 metres (20,449 feet) - no question this is from the Kunza language and means 'the eyebrow'.

Cerro Solo - 6,190 metres (20,308 feet) - is fairly easy Spanish for 'one hill' (albeit a very high hill).

Aucanquilcha - 6,176 metres (20,262 feet) - another where I drew a blank at finding an origin but I did discover this was the location of the highest mine ever known and until at least the end of the last century was the highest permanently inhabited location in the world - population of the village being just four and unlikely to grow as they were all men.

San Pedro - 6,145 metres (20,161 feet) - simply Spanish for Saint Peter.

Sierra Nevada - 6,127 metres (20,102 feet) - another Spanish name, this coming from 'the snowy range'.

Solimana - 6,093 metres (19,990 feet) - probably derived from the Spanish soliman 'corrosive, poison' and a reasonable description of a volanco.

Aracar - 6,082 metres (19,954 feet) - no origins of this name have been suggested.

Guallatini - 6,071 metres (19,918 feet) - one suggestion gives this as 'the place of the Andean geese'.

Chachani - 6,057 metres (19,872 feet) - no origins of this name could be found.

Socompa - 6,051 metres (19,852 feet) - sadly nothing could be found here.

Acamarachi - 6,046 metres (19,836 feet) - is a name meaning 'black moon'.

Hualca Hualca - 6,025 metres (19,767 feet) - has been suggested as meaning 'a complex of collars', volcanic craters could certainly be seen as collar-like.

Uturunku - 6,008 metres (19,711 feet) - this is the Quecha word for 'jaguar' - presumably the large cat and not the car.

And just so we include some of the better known names

Cotopaxi - is often said to mean 'shining pile' but this has yet to be proved.

Etna - is held to be from the Phoenician attuna meaning 'furnace' or perhaps 'chimney'.

Fujiyama - having no early records makes it difficult to define but a text from the 10th century maintains this means 'immortal'. A similar story suggests the literal meaning of 'not exhaust', thus another suggestion of immortality. One further explanation gives this as 'not two', thus 'without equal'.

Mauna Loa - translates as 'long mountain'.

Popacatapetl - derived from the Nahuatl words popoca 'it smokes' and tepetl 'mountain', a fair description of a volcano.

Mt St Helens - was named after British diplomat Lord St Helens, a good friend of George Vancouver who first surveyed the area in the late 18th century. Traditional names, there are several depending upon the tribe concerned, describe this as 'the smoker', 'water coming out', and 'snow mountain'.

Stromboli - a name derived from Ancient Greek Strongule because of its rounded, rather swollen shape. Yes, say it out loud - it makes sense.

Tristan da Cunha - was named by the Portuguese explorer who first saw the islands in 1506, one Tristao da Cunha.

Vesuvius - an ancient name and one where the meaning depends very much on which language first coined the name. Greek would give us either 'unquenchable' or 'hurling violence'; while an earlier Indo-European root would offer up 'the one who lightens' or 'hearth'.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


From time to time I define surnames, this as I'm intrigued to know whether anyone with a particular surname is suited to their name. Now I'm not big on poetry but a did enter a recent competition, this simply to show support for a local event. Probably because very few entered I was told the other week I had been lucky enough to be among the winning entries. Now I know the origin of my surname - a combination of 'the farmstead by a pool' and the trade of 'metalworker', neither of which have the slightest connection with writing and certainly not poetry. Hence I thought it worthwhile to see if any poet has a name suggesting he or she was born to the task.

Arnold - obviously began as a personal name, one which can be traced to Proto-Indo-European or wal which literally meant 'large bird' and 'power' respectively but understood as 'the strength of an eagle'.

Beaumont - is of French derivation and simply means 'beautiful hill'.

Beddoes - is from a Welsh diminutive of Meredydd which is the same as the modern 'Meredith'. The name means as 'lord of splendour'

Benet - shares a root with the name 'Benedict' meaning 'blessed'.

Betjeman - shares an orign with the above as a corruption of 'Benedict' meaning 'blessed'.

Blake - another corruption, this simply began as 'black' although as a name it could not only refer to one with dark hair or skin but as a nickname meaning someone with quite the opposite features.

Bridges - does indeed mean 'bridge' but is taken from the Belgian place name of Bruges, which does mean 'bridge'. As a surname it is derived from the place name, a reference to someone from Bruges.

Bronte - an Anglicised form of the Gaelic O Proinntigh or 'descendant of Proinnteach' where proinn 'banquet' and teach 'hall, house' and suggesting a generous person.

Brooks - no doubt this began as 'small stream'.

Brown - as with Blake a name drescribing one's colour, be it hair or skin.

Browning - is exactly the same as 'Brown' above.

Bryant - is from Old Breton-Irish and is identical to the name 'Brian' in coming from either 'hill' or 'strong'.

Burns - is the same as 'Brooks' above 'a stream'.

Byron - is a place name, now seen as Byram and meaning 'place of the cattlesheds'.

Campion - is from the French for 'champion'.

Carew - is of Welsh and/or Cornish origins where caer rhiw 'fort on a slope'.

Carroll - is thought to come from the Irish cearbh 'hacking' and a nickname for a butcher or warrior.

Chatterton - is another place name where Celtic cadeir 'chair' precedes Old English tun 'farmstead'.

Chaucer - is from the French for 'hosier'.

Chesterton - an Old English place name where caester tun refers to 'the farmstead at the former Roman stronghold'.

Clare - a Celtic river name meaning 'bright, gentle'.

Coleridge - another place name and probably referring to 'the ridge of land where charcoal was obtained'.

Collins - is from the name 'Colin', itself of Irish origin where cuilein meant 'darling' and used as a term of endearment for a young animal.

Cowper - is a trade name, one who produced a barrel or rub for German kup was 'a container'.

Cummings - is from a Breton personal name meaning 'bent' or 'crooked' and likely refers more to posture than honesty.

Dante - from the Latin verb durare 'to endure'.

Davidson - obviously 'son of David', a personal name meaning 'beloved friend'.

Davies - is exactly the same as the above, from 'son of David'.

De la Mare - from the French for 'of the sea'.

Dickinson - obviously 'son of Dick' or Richard, itself meaning 'powerful, strong'.

Dryden - a place name meaning 'the dry valley'.

Eliot - is ultimately from 'Elijah' or 'Jehovah is God'.

Emerson - comes from 'son of Amery', the personal name meaning 'bravery, vigour'.

Flecker - is a variation of 'Fletcher' or 'one who made arrows'.

Fletcher - is, as mentioned above, 'a maker of arrows'.

Goethe - a German variation on Gottfried, itself meaning 'God's protection'.

Gordon - is a Olde Gaelic personal name from gor dun 'a large fort', where 'large' is used more in the sense of 'spacious' than referring to armament.

Graves - nothing to do with burials, this comes from Old English graefe meaning 'grove (of trees)'.

Gray - has two origins, either as a nickname for one with grey hair or from the commune in the Calvados department of Normandy of Graye-sur-Mer, itself named for the owner Anchetil de Greye, whose surname probably refers to his mixed Scandinavian-Frankish ancestry. Note the change in spelling, where the North American preference for 'gray' the color represents the earlier and thus traditional form; while we Brits have gone for the colour as 'grey'. Yet another example of a difference which we on the eastern side of the Atlantic blame on our English-speaking friends to the west, when the error (if it is indeed an error) came from the mother country.

Gunn - comes from the Old Scandinavian name Gunnr meaning 'battle'.

Hardy - from the French hardi meaning 'bold, courageous'.

Henley - is another place name, one meaning 'the high (as in chief) woodland clearing'.

Herbert - from the personal name it is Germanic in origin from hari 'host' and beraht 'bright'.

Herrick - is derived from the Old Scandinavian personal name Eirikr from eir 'mercy' and rik 'power'.

Homer - a trade name, he being 'one who made helmets'.

Hood - is derived from the same source as 'hat' in Proto-Indo-European kadh meaning 'cover, protect' and it is in this sense it more likely became a surname.

Hopkins - this the 'son of Hob', a personal name from Germanic Hrodbert, this translating as 'renowned fame', and the basis for the French name 'Robert'.

Horace - another personal name and one with a surprising origin for this represents the Saxon version of Rabin or Robin, itself a pet form of Robert (see Hopkins).

Housman - speaks for itself, this 'man' worked in the 'house' and was really a servant.

Hughes - comes from the personal name 'Hugh', brought to England by the French and loaned from the German 'Hugo' meaning 'bright in mind and spirit'.

Hunt - a trade name, it is a shortened version of 'hunter'.

Jonson - 'son of John', a personal name thought to have its beginnings in the Hebrew 'Jehovah has favoured'.

Keats - comes from the Old English cyta 'a herdsman'.

Kipling - a place name meaning 'the place of the people of Cyppel'.

Landor - is easy to understand when the meaning of 'washerman' or 'launderer' is seen.

Larkin - a diminutive of 'Laurence', itself meaning 'victory'.

Longfellow - a nickname used to describe someone tall or used ironically for one who was lacking in stature.

Lovelace - is a nickname and not for one who likes lace but actually a corruption for a miserable beggar as it began as 'loveless'.

Lowell - is from the French 'Lou', itself from lupus 'wolf'.

Macaulay - from an Old Gaelic Mac-Amhalghaidh. The 'mac' is, of course, 'son' - while the personal name means 'like the willow twig'.

Macbeth - another Gaelic name, this meaning 'son of life'.

Marvell - came to English from French and thought to mean 'a marvel, wonder'.

Masefield - certainly a place name and likely meaning 'great field'.

Meredith - as seen above, this is 'lord of splendour'.

Milton - a place name and as simple a name as they come for this is 'the middle farmstead'.

Moore - another simplistic place name, this is 'moor' or 'uncultivated land'.

Morris - from the personal name but nearly always with the original spelling of 'Maurice' or 'inhabitant of Mauretania'

Nashe - is a place name, one where the original atten asc has seen a migration of the last letter of the previous word to the beginning of the following one. Thus this place name meant 'at the ash trees'.

Ovid - simply means 'gentle'.

Plath - this is undoubtedly Germanic but could be either 'a maker of breast plates' or topographical in 'the plateau'.

Poe - a variation on 'Peacock', a nickname for anyone considered vain.

Pope - if of English origin it comes from the office of the Roman Catholic church, however if of Scottish beginnings then this is a pointer to a possible Pictish ancestry.

Pound - a 'pound' was an area in which animals were held, but as a surname is more likely to have become Pinder. Thus 'Pound' is from the same as 'pond'.

Prior - is unlikely to be derived from the religious root, here the name is probably a nickname describing someone who appeared to give off a 'superior' air.

Pushkin - derived from the Russian personal name Pushka meaning 'cannon', this began as a nickname for someone who was loud and overly outgoing.

Raleigh - is a place name meaning 'woodland clearing where roe deer are seen'.

Rossetti - is derived from the Italian word for 'red'.

Schiller - is of southern Ashkenazic and became a German nickname for someone with a squint.

Shelley - a place name meaning 'a woodland clearing on or near the shelf of land'.

Sidney - is from a place name meaning 'at the wide island or watermeadow'.

Skelton - a place name meaning 'a farmstead on or near a shelf of land'.

Smart - comes from Old English smeart 'quick' and used as a nickname for one who was overly brisk or active.

Smith - simple 'a worker in metal'.

Southey - another place name, this meaning 'the southern island'.

Spenser - is derived from Old English spens 'a larder', thus this referred to someone in a large house working in a job akin to a butler or steward.

Swinburne - a place name meaning 'the river where swine are seen'.

Tasso - is derived from a Germanic word tat meaning 'deed'.

Teasdale - another place name, one referring to 'the valley of the Tees' where the river name can be defined as 'surging river'.

Tennyson - is actually 'the son of Dennis', the personal name from the Greek Dionysos the god of wine and revelry.

Thompson - 'son of Thomas' with the personal name meaning 'a twin'.

Virgil - a Latin name thought to mean 'vigil'.

Wain - derived from the Germanic for 'cart'.

Watson - 'son of Walter', the personal name meaning 'the ruler of the army'.

Whitman - 'the friend or servant of a man called Hwit', the personal name probably beginning as a reference to one having fair or white hair.

Whittier - two possible origins here: either 'one who made cases' or an abbreviated place name telling of 'the dweller at' and found originally with a second and now lost element.

Wilde - was probably a nickname for it really does mean 'wild man, savage'.

Wolfe - clear enough, this is indeed 'wolf'.

Wordsworth - an excellent name for any writer but actually a corruption of the place name Wadworth, itself referring to 'the enclosure of a man called Wada'.

Wotton - another place name, this meaning 'the farmstead where woad grows'.

Wyatt - from the Old English personal name Wigheard meaning 'hardy, brave, strong'.

Yeats - from early Germanic which we would read as 'gate' but which referred to the 'way' rather than the gate across same.

So really none of the poets have a name particularly suited to their apparent talents. Not even the Bard himself, for Shakespeare does indeed refer to a person who shakes a spear. However don't take this literally for this should be seen as a nickname for an argumentative or confrontational individual. Perhaps old Bill's ancestors would agree with me when I maintain it ain't poetry unless it rhymes, it's just overly-flowery writing with excessive use of 'enter'.

Thus perhaps I should change my name to Shakespeare. Not that I would ever write anything akin to the man himself, but when it comes to being confrontational..... and it would certainly raise my profile on search engines.

Friday, 16 June 2017


Research often sees me ploughing through week after week of old newspapers, inevitably found on microfilm. Looking for criminal activities of yesteryear, I found the now obsolete crime of 'uttering' (passing forged money) and wondered how on earth a word meaning 'to speak' could also be a crime, etymologically speaking of course, for it is easy to see how certain individuals even thinking of opening their mouths could be considered criminal.

Arson - came to English from Old French arsion and Latin arsionem both meaning 'a burning'. Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European as 'to burn, glow', this has also given us the word 'ash' as in the residue of a fire.

Barratry - I actually thought this a misprint until I discovered this referred to marine law and 'the wrongful conduct by any on board resulting in a loss to the owners'. The word came to English from Old French baraterie 'deceit, guile, trickery' and a name also given to a bay off the coast of Louisiana and named as it was difficult to navigate through the entry.

Battery - is fairly easy to see as meaning 'to beat, thrash'; the word also giving us the sense of 'bombardment' and also the electrical storage cell. All come from Proto-Indo-European bhau 'to strike'.

Bigamy - is easier to understand if we separate the two elements, the prefix 'bi' meaning 'double' and followed by the Greek gamos 'to marry' and Proto-Indo-European gem 'to marry'. This early root is also the source of 'gamete', and Greek words referring to 'son-in-law, brother-in-law, father-in-law', Sanskrit fir 'brother, sister, daughter-in-law', and the seventh month of the ancient Attic calendar known as Gamelion, roughly corresponding to late January and early February this translates as 'the month of marriages'.

Blackmail - again two elements, the former 'black', first used as an adjective and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European bhleg 'to burn, shine, flash' and thus coming to the colour black as being used in the sense 'to blacken' for the original meaning was quite the opposite; with the suffix 'mail' ultimately from Proto-Indo-European mod 'meet, assemble'.

Bribery - came to English from Old French bribe 'bit, piece, hunk, morsel of bread given to beggars' and also Old French bribeor 'vagrant, beggar'.

Burglary - first please note ITV newsreaders the word is not pronounced as 'burgle-ree', although it does come from the Latin burgator 'burglar' and burgare 'to break open'.

Embezzlement - is from Old French em 'in' and besillier torment, destroy, gouge'. Earlier forms are unknown.

Embracery - is an alternative description of 'bribery' and comes from the Middle French embrasser 'to clasp in arms, enclose, covet, handle'.

Extortion - directly from Latin extorquere 'to wrench out, wrest away, obtain by force' and ultimately Proto-Indo-European terkw 'to twist'.

Forgery - quite obviously having the same root as 'forge' in the metalwork sense which can be shown to share a common root with 'fabric' in Proto-Indo-European dhabh 'to fit together'.

Hijacking - puts together a shortened form of 'high' used to mean 'to lift' with 'jack' a slang term for 'to steal'. It is a comparatively recent term.

Incitement - from Old French and ultimately Proto-Indo-European en 'in' and the root of 'cite', Proto-Indo-European keie 'to set in motion'.

Kidnapping - a compound of 'kid' and a variant of 'nab', this originally referred to stealing children to provide servants and labourers in the American colonies, thus 'kid' is quite correct.

Larceny - coming to English from the French and Latin route, this originates in Proto-Indo-European le 'to get'.

Libel - comes from Latin libellus 'a little book, pamphlet', it also the origin of 'library'.

Looting - in English meant, as recently as the 19th century, 'goods taken from an enemy' rather than simply any stolen goods. This came from the Hindi lut and Sanskrit lotram, and all with the root in Proto-Indo-European roup-tro 'to snatch'.

Malversation - is another I'd never heard and thus had no idea it was 'professional or official corruption'. Coming to English through French and Latin, it can be traced to Proto-Indo-European wer 'to turn, bend' and preceded by 'mal' from Proto-Indo-European mol-o 'wrong, evil'.

Manslaughter - the important part here is the 'slaughter', itself from 'slay' which is virtually unchanged through a chain of Germanic terms and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European slak 'to strike'.

Murder - is another with a Germanic history and one traceable to Proto-Indo-European where mer was used to mean 'rub away, harm, die'.

Perjury - here Old French per 'entirely' and the root of 'jury', this Latin iurare 'to swear'.

Piracy - is from 'pirate', itself seen as ultimately from Proto-Indo-European per-ya 'trial, an attempt, attack'.

Rape - comes from the Latin rapere 'seize' and Proto-Indo-European rep 'to snatch'.

Robbery - is obvioulsy from 'rob' and this can be traced back to the same Proto-Indo-European root as the previous crime, where rep means 'to snatch'.

Sacrilege - here 'sacred', from the Proto-Indo-European root sak 'to sanctify' unites with the Proto-Indo-European root leg 'to collect, gather'; to suggest something taken away from a holy idea or object.

Shoplifting - 'lift' here is used in the sense of 'to take', this following a word with a Germanic root meaning 'shed, barn, building without walls'.

Smuggling - 'smuggle' has similar words in several Germanic tongues all suggesting 'to creep', 'to slip', and similar.

Theft - a Germanic word and derived from 'thief', itself of uncertain origin but common to just about every Germanic language.

Treason - seen as the worst of crimes, as it affects more than any other crime, it comes from the French and Latin where the latter traditionem 'delivery, surrender' and from two elements trans 'over' and do 'to give' and for obvious reasons.

Uttering - was what started it all and derived from the Middle English verb outen 'to disclose' and Old English utan 'to put out'. These can be traced to Proto-Germanic ut 'out' and this from Proto-Indo-European ud 'up, out, away'. Thus the link between 'to speak' and passing forged money is in the sense 'to give out'.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ghouls and Ghosts

Although I have written a number of books on ghost stories, these you'll find at the end of this piece, here I'm looking at the origins of the many assorted named used to describe these supernatural beings. In some cases the etymologies are even weirder than the stories.

Banshee - in Irish folklore this fairy is held to predict an imminent death. First recorded in 1771 as Irish bean sidhe, this the phonetic spelling for 'female of the elves'. The root bean 'woman' from the Proto-Indo-European root gwen with the same meaning of 'woman'.

Bogeyman, unsurprisingly, is a combination of two words. The suffix 'man' is unchanged since at least Proto-Indo-European, while 'bogey' is another form of many dialect terms - such as 'bogge, boggart, bogle, etc, - all from the same root as Welsh bwg 'goblin' and thought to date back to 'buck', a goat-like supernatural creature and a word which can traced back to Proto-Indo-European bhugo 'buck, goat'. This is hardly a surprise as many supernatural beings are depicted with horns reminiscent of those worn by a goat.

Brownie comes from Scotland, a diminutive of 'a wee brown man' and thus comes from the same root as the colour, itself from Proto-Indo-European bher which also means simply 'brown'.

Demon still has the alternative spelling of 'daemon' in English, this the Latin word for 'spirit' and taken from the Greek daimon 'deity, divine power, lesser god'. The Greek comes directly from Proto-Indo-European dai mon 'the divider, provider' and thus only in recent times have demons been perceived with any negativity.

Devil here is used to mean 'evil spirit' rather than the alternative name for Satan. Here 'devil' comes to English from Latin, Greek, Jewish, where diaballein 'to slander, attack' (although literally 'throw across') from Proto-Indo-European dia 'across, through' and gwele 'to throw, reach'.

Elf is from Germanic folklore, where it was used to refer to any small supernatural being. Here the Proto-Germanic albiz is thought to come from Proto-Indo-European albho 'white' and a reasonable description of an indistinct ghostly image.

Fairy is derived from Latin fata 'the Fates' of Roman mythology. This is derived from Proto-Indo-European bha 'to speak, say'.

Genie comes from the Latin genius, the original meaning being 'an individual's guardian spirit'. This derived from the same root as 'gene' in 'birth, beget'.

Ghost comes from Old English gast 'breath' as well as 'good or bad spirit'. This Germanic word can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European gheis which is the root for so many words in any number of languages, all meaning 'excitement, amazement, fear, wonder' such as Sanskrit hedah 'wrath', Avestan zaesha 'horrible', and Gothic usgaisjan 'frighten'.

Goblin has an uncertain origin, although it may be from Greek kobalas 'rogue, knave' and possibly a diminutive of the proper noun Gobel.

Imp, until the 14th century, referred not to fauna but flora, the change almost gradual and initially referring to 'a little one'. Earlier this was used to mean 'young shoot, graft' and began as Proto-Indo-European bheue'to be, exist, grow'.

Incubus, credited with causing nightmares makes the origin of Latin incubo 'nightmare' and from incubare 'to lie upon'.

Kobold shares an origin with 'cobalt', a metal not named until 1733 and not used as a colour unbtil 1835. Here the metal, and thus the colour, come from the German kobold 'household goblin' - the name being taken for the ore as it contained traces of arsenic and sulphur and made the miners in the Harz Mountains ill.

Leprechaun is from Irish luchorpan 'a very small body' and from the Proto-Indo-European legwh 'not heavy' and kwrep 'body'.

Phantom, in the sense of 'spirit, ghost' is unrecorded before the 14th century, prior to that it had been used to mean 'to bring light' and is derived from Proto-Indo-European bha 'to shine'.

Poltergeist is German and means 'noisy ghost'. This is derived from Proto-Indo-European bhel 'to roar, sound', itself also the origin of both 'bellow' and 'bell'.

Spectre shares a root with 'spectrum', both from Proto-Indo-European spek 'to observe'.

Spirit can be traced to Proto-Indo-European speis 'to blow', this developing into Latin and French words suggesting 'breath of life'.

Spook is from the Middle Dutch spooc 'ghost'. While the trail ends here, we can find related words such as Danish spog 'joke' and Swedish spok 'scarecrow'.

Sprite shares an origin with 'spirit' (see above).

Succubus is related to 'incubus' (see above) but here means 'to lie under'. The word is seen in Latin succuba, used to refer to a 'fiend in female form having a sexual connection with men in their sleep'.

Troll is an Old Norse word, used as a noun to mean 'giant not of the human race' but also as an adjective 'to walk clumsily'. Here the latter possibly came from the verb form, itself meaning 'to stroll'.

Wraith is also from Old Norse, coming to English from vorthr meaning 'guardian'. Now today the 'wraith' is never seen positively and thus this Old Norse root is probably a red herring and we should be looking at the same root as 'wrath', itself having numerous forms in Germanic tongues all meaning 'anger, cruel, offended' and based on Proto-Indo-European wer 'to turn, bend'.

Zombie is of West African origin and originally the name of a snake god. It is related to Kikongo zumbi 'fetish' and Kimbundu nzambi 'god'.

These and other terms can be found in my books on the supernatural and paranormal. See how my research uncovered a relative in Haunted Worcestershire, read the best-seller Black Country Ghosts, hear about the intriguing telephone call in Paranormal Cotswolds, have a look at where I live in Paranormal Staffordshire, find out there is more to Warwick than its famous castle in Ghosts Around Warwickshire, and read how her lover could never admit he wasn't in the room when she had the best sex of her life in Ghosts Around Birmingham.

Sunday, 4 June 2017


Two years ago I looked at Parts of Speech but only covered the most commonly known. Here are some other terms used in grammar but, rather than explaining their use, this time I have simply looked at the etymology of the word.

Ablative - is the 'grammatical case denoting removal or separation', it came to English through the Old French and Latin route, where in the Latin phrase casus ablativus we see the meaning of 'case of removal'. Here the root is Proto-Indo-European bher meaning 'to carry' and a word we still use in the sense of 'to bear children'.

Absolute - came to us from the Latin absolvere and is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European swe leu which literally means 'ourselves apart (from)'.

Accidence is derived from 'accident', itself from Proto-Indo-European ad kad 'to make fall' (which hardly sounds accidental to me!)

Accusative is clearly derived from 'accuse', which features the suffix ad used to mean 'with regard to' and the Latin causa 'a reason' which is of unknown origin.

Active came to English through the French/Latin route and is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ag 'to drive, move'.

Adjunct is from 'adjoin', once again featuring the prefix ad 'with regard to' and the Proto-Indo-European yeug 'to join'.

Analysis comes from the Greek ana lyein, literally 'to unfasten throughout' and from Proto-Indo-European an 'upon, above' and leu 'to loosen, divide'.

Antonym is from the Greek anti 'opposite' and onym 'name' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European anti nomm with exactly the same meaning.

Apostrophe - from the Greek apo 'off, away from' and strephein 'to turn', in turn from Proto-Indo-European apo strebh, 'to turn away'.

Article refers to anything written, with a root in Proto-Indo-European ar 'to fit together' and coming to English via articulus meaning not only 'a part' but also 'knuckle'.

Assonance features that ad suffix again, here with the Proto-Indo-European root swen to give 'with regard to sound'.

Clause shares an origin with the verb 'to close', these from Latin clausus 'to shot, close' and intriguingly from Proto-Indo-European klau meaning 'hook, peg, crooked, forked branch', all being seen in the sense of 'closing'.

Colon had me worried but only comes from the Latin word for 'part of a poem', itself from Greek kolon and used to mean 'part of a verse' but literally 'limb, member' and particularly referring to the leg but also a tree limb. These all have a root in Proto-Indo-European kel 'bent, crooked'.

Comma is the Latin for 'short phrase', itself from Greek komma 'piece which is cut off' and from the root Proto-Indo-European kop 'to beat, strike', itself also the root of 'hatchet'.

Conditional is from 'condition', itself from Latin and ultimately Proto-Indo-European deik 'to show'.

Conjugate is from the Latin coniugatus and ultimately Proto-Indo-European kom yeug 'to join together'.

Consonant is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European kom swen 'to join sound'.

Dative can be traced through Latin dativus 'pertaining to giving' to the Proto-Indo-European root do 'to give'.

Declension is from Latin declinare, also the root of 'decline', and traced back to Proto-Indo-European de 'from' and klein 'to lean'.

Decline (see above)

Definite shares a root with 'define' in de 'from' and dhigw 'pierce, fix, fasten'.

Diaeresis has two root elements, dia 'apart' and ser which means 'to seize' and shares an origin with 'heresy'.

Ellipsis has two elements, enin
and leikw the Proto-Indo-European word meaning 'to leave'.

Epistrophe has two Proto-Indo-European elements epi 'near, at, against
and strebh 'to wind, turn'.

Feminine comes from Proto-Indo-European dhei 'to suck' as in 'she who suckles'.

Finite shares a root with 'finish' and 'fix' in Proto-Indo-European dhigw 'to pierce, fix, fasten'.

Fricative shares an origin with 'friction' in Proto-Indo-European bhreie 'to rub, break'.

Gender shares a root with 'gene' in Proto-Indo-European gene 'to give birth'.

Hyperbaton has two Proto-Indo-European elements uper 'over' and gwa 'to go'.

Imperative also has two Proto-Indo-European elements en 'in' and pere 'to produce'.

Imperfect from the prefix im 'not, opposite of' and from the same root as 'perfect' per 'completely' and dhe to set, put'.

Interrogative comes from 'iterrogate' and Proto-Indo-European inter reg 'to stretch out in a straight line'.

Indefinite the opposite of 'definite' (see above).

Infinite the opposite of 'finite' (see above).

Intransitive is the opposite of 'transitive' (see below).

Irregular features the prefix in 'opposite of' and the Proto-Indo-European reg in 'a straight line'

Labial refers to the way a word is sounded, this from 'lip' and Proto-Indo-European leb 'to lick'.

Litotes is a Greek word meaning 'plainness, simplicity' and from the Proto-Indo-European root lei 'smily, sticky, slippery'.

Meiosis is a Greek word from the Proto-Indo-European root mei 'small'.

Metaphor again of Greek origins, where meta 'over, across' precedes Proto-Indo-European bher 'to carry' and 'bear children'.

Metre is derived from the same root as the metric measurement, this Proto-Indo-European me 'to measure'.

Neologism three Greek elements this time: neo 'new', logos 'word', and ism 'condition or quality of being'.

Nominative comes from 'nominate', itself from 'name', which is a Proto-Indo-European word nomm meaning 'name'.

Object a word which has certainly changed its meaning over time. It has two elements ob in front of, against' and the Proto-Indo-European root ye 'to throw, impel'.

Onomatopoeia still appears more Greek than English, this coming from onoma 'word, name' and the same Proto-Indo-European root as 'poet', this kwei 'to pile up, build, make'.

Oxymoron another obviously Greek word, here Proto-Indo-European ak 'be sharp, rise to a point' precedes moros 'stupid'.

Parataxis features more Greek, with para from Proto-Indo-European per 'forward, toward, near' and a Proto-Indo-European word tag 'to touch. handle' which is also the root of 'tactics'.

Parse comes from Proto-Indo-European pere 'to grant, allott'.

Particle also comes from Proto-Indo-European pere as above.

Participle shares an origin with 'participate' in Proto-Indo-European pere 'to grasp, allot' and kap 'to grasp'.

Passive comes from Latin root pati meaning 'to suffer'.

Person is of Greek origin and could share a root with the mythical Persephone in meaning 'mask'.

Semicolon while 'semi' does mean 'half', it comes from the rootsem 'imperfect' which explains why a semicolon is not half a 'colon' - if it did this wouldbe defined as 'half bent or crooked' and that would just be plain silly.

Sentence is from the past participle of 'sense', traceable to Proto-Indo-European sent 'to go'.

Simile shares an origin with 'similar' in Proto-Indo-European sem 'one, as one'.

Subject is along the lines of 'object' (see above) only here the Proto-Indo-European upo is 'under' with ye 'to throw, impel'.

Subjunctive links the prefix sub 'under' with the Proto-Indo-European root yeug 'to join'.

Subordinate another sub or 'under' with a word having the same origin as 'order', this Proto-Indo-European ar 'to fit together'.

Supine comes from the Latin supinus used figuratively to mean 'inactive, indolent' and derived from the Proto-Indo-European root sup 'under'.

Syntax is from the Greek where syn 'together' precedes tassein 'arrange'.

Transitive links the prefix trans 'across, beyond' and the Proto-Indo-European root ire 'to go'.

Vocative shares a root with 'vocal' in Proto-Indo-European wekw 'to speak'.

Vowel comes from exactly the same Proto-Indo-European root wekw 'to speak'.

Zeugma is a Greek word meaning 'that which is used for joining' literally 'a yoking' and comes from Proto-Indo-European yeug 'to join'.