What Are Some Common Etymology Terms and Definitions?


Quick Answer

Etymology explains the origins and definitions of words and phrases. Some common etymology terms include algebra, or reunion of broken parts; geek, originally a term for describing circus performers; and plastic, from the Latin word "plasticus" and the Greek "plasticos."

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The term "algebra" was first used by the mathematician Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi around the year 825 AD. The term was unveiled in his book, the title of which translates to "Rules of Reintegration and Reduction." This book focused on equations and brought Arabic numerals to the western part of the world.

"Geek" is fairly newer to western vernacular, dating only back to around 1916 when it originated as circus slang. The term was originally used to describe extreme circus performers who often ate insects and bit off the heads of small animals. The word is thought to be based on the German term "geck," used to describe a fool, freak or very simple person.

Both the Latin and Greek origins of the word "plastic" indicate its ability to be molded, a meaning which continued into the 1600s when the word entered English vocabulary. The word itself existed quite a while before the first type of human-made plastic, Parkesine, was developed in 1862 in London.

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