Etymology of some words used during Week 2

Hello everyone,


the idea for this post came from one comment I read during week 2 the course. A learner, Mike Charleswoth Finch, was asking why in modern English we use the word haline, instead of saline, to refer to the thermohaline circulation. Professor Rachel Mills replied “past estimates of saltiness came from titration of the halogens (halides in ionic form), and the word is derived from the Greek for salt. The word saline is derived from Latin for salt!”.


Now this made me thinking, what about the history of the words (etymology) that we came across this week’s material. I made a small search and below I present some examples. Hope you enjoy it!


Mobilis in mobili: moving in a moving thing; changing through the changing medium. This was the motto of Nautilus from the Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (source: Wikipedia)


Water (Figure 1): Old English wæter (noun) of Germanic origin; related to Dutch water, German Wasser, from an Indo-European root shared by Russian voda (compare with vodka), also by Latin unda ‘wave’ and Greek hudōr ‘water’ (source: Google).

For more interesting facts about the etymology of water and its relation to English History see:


Figure 1. A splash of water


Ocean (Figure 2): Late 13th century from Old French occean “ocean” (12c., Modern French océan), from Latin oceanus, from Greek okeanos, the great river or sea surrounding the disk of the Earth (as opposed to the Mediterranean), of unknown origin (source:

Some early references of the word okeanos in the Greek mythology:


Figure 2. Oceans


Gyre (Figure 3): late Middle English (in the sense ‘whirl someone or something round’): from late Latin gyrare, from Latin gyrus ‘a ring’, from Greek guros . The noun is from Latin gyrus  (source:


Figure 3. The three main gyres in the Pacific Ocean.


Interestingly, gyros in modern Greek has also come to mean a typical streetfood delicacy (Figure 4)  similar to well-known kebap.



Figure 4. Gyros, a delicacy from Greece.


Lunar: late Middle English: from Latin lunaris, from luna ‘moon’ (source: Google)

The modern English word lunatic has the same root and referes to someone affected with periodic insanity, dependent on the changes of the moon.


Solar: late Middle English: from Latin solaris, from sol ‘sun’ (source: Google).

Again many modern English words have the same root, such as: circumsolar, extrasolar, insolate, insolation, solar, solarium, soliform, solstice, subsolar


Image credits:

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 3:

Figure 4:


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