Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tools of the Trade III

If you missed the first two installments of my exploration of language via Joseph Shipley's Dictionary of Word Origins, you can find them here and here.

Today we will take a look at the origins of:

Ku Klux Klan

"Ku Klux Klan" is related to the words "circle" and "cycle." It is taken from the Greek kuklose and kyklos, which mean circle. "Klan" is a bastardization of the word "clan," which has its origins in the Gaelic word clann. Despite its secretive nature, it is unrelated to "clandestine," which is derived from the Latin clandestinus. (And yes, I am a tad apprehensive about the Google hits I may get for having this term on my site!)

"Mystery" hails from the Greek word mysterion, referring to a secret religious ceremony, taken from myein, to close (lips and eyes), to initiate. A second meaning of the word, familiar perhaps to some Catholic or Episcopalian visitors, refers to the medieval plays depicting the life of Christ, which were called mysteries. In this case, the word came from the Latin words ministerium, the ministry, and magisterium which refers to the church's teaching authority.

"Scintillate" has at its root the Latin word scintilla, a spark. I found it interesting to note that "tinsel" also relates to this word. In French, the word etincelle, also derived from "scintilla" refers to sparkling goods.

As always, if anyone has an interesting word they'd like me to research, I'll be more than happy to oblige!


Danette Haworth said...

I find the word roots very interesting.

I know what you mean about those Google hits. While researching for a story, I used Google to find ways to get a fake social security number, secure a gun illegally, and obtain a false birth certificate.

I'm innocent, I tell ya!

LindaBudz said...

Mmmhmm. "Research." I hear ya.