From Oscan hirpus to English hearse

Myriapod Productions have released a rather lovely video in their "Mysteries of Vernacular" series tracing the etymology of the English word hearse back to the Oscan word hirpus, 'wolf'. (This was discovered and sent to me by my friend Julia, so many thanks to her! I have included some pictures of coins below, because she likes coins.) This... Continue Reading →


Why do some Greek and Latin words mean (almost) the opposite in English?

As a learner of Greek or Latin, you are sometimes confronted by words that seem to have obvious counterparts in English - and most of the time, that's very helpful. English has borrowed lots from the ancient languages, particularly from Latin (often via French). Sometimes a word means exactly what it should in a weird... Continue Reading →

Two Latin words for elephant

There are two words for “elephant” in Latin, and both have to do with Greeks in Italy. The first one, elephantus (or sometimes elephas or elephans), is fairly straightforward. It’s used in Latin from about the second century BC, and it’s a borrowing of the Greek word ὁ ἐλέφας, –αντος. That’s the normal Greek word for both African and Indian elephants, and is... Continue Reading →

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