Thursday, September 12, 2013

Etymosheeple Round 2

Etymosheeple Round 2

What’s Etymosheeple, you ask? It’s explained here.

In our last exciting round of Etymosheeple, we ended on the word adolescent. In the comments section, Rachel6 of Sesquipedalian Dreamer noted that she’s always associated the words adolescent & nascent, so nascent will be our next stop this round (thanks, Rachel6).

Nascent arrived in English in 1620 from the Latin word nascentum, meaning immature, arising, or young. Nascentum comes from the Latin word nasci, or to be born.

What other words also come from nasci? A quick search reveals a smoking heap of them.

Obvious ones associated with birth include:

natal (late 1300s)

neonatal (1883)

Renaissance (1840s – I would’ve guessed earlier)

Not-so-obvious ones include:

cognate, meaning of common descent. Though the words springing from nasci in this list are broadly related cognates, cognates are typically more closely related (like the French nuit, German nacht & English night).

nee, as in Jacqueline Kennedy, nee Onassis)

innate, as in innate talents

Noel, as in Christmas

native, nation & nature

And my favorite of the bunch, puny, which entered English in the 1570s, meaning inferior in rank, from the Middle French word, puisné, which came from Latin that I’ll simplify as post-nasci, meaning after being born.

Thinking Etymosheepishly, the word puny leads me to wonder about other words meaning small (teeny, tiny, teensy), & whether they owe their –y endings to nasci, (as puny does) or to the more traditional diminutive –y ending we find in puppy or baby.

And the answer is….maybe. It turns out both teensy (1899) & teeny (1825) are alternative forms of tiny (1400), which appears to have come from the word tine, (as in the tines of a fork), and may have been formed by adding the diminutive-making –y to the word tine, but nobody knows for sure.

Thanks for joining me for this particularly directionless round of Etymosheeple.

This week in the comments section, I’d love to see words with unlikely spellings. Mention one, mention two, mention a dozen…

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik, & Etymonline.


  1. Love all the etymosheepling! I wonder if tines are little knives? (That's a little stretchy.) And "Renaissance" didn't show up as a word until 1840? Amazing. So just as the Pre-Raphaelites were making "Medieval" romantic,somebody invented the "Renaissance." We don't know what we've got till it's gone?

  2. Anne -- Joni Mitchell was right, though it's a bit of a stretch to the metaphor to suggest Medieval times were paradise & the Renaissance was the parking lot.