Etymology, or the study of the origins of words, can be surprising. Did you assume that male and female, pen and pencil, or rage and outrage were related? It would be logical to think so. But while the modern words may have related meanings, these words have entirely different roots. Take male and female. Male comes from the Latin masculus. But the word female comes from the French femelle which in turn comes from the Latin femella. According to a Mental Floss article by linguist Arika Okrent, the fact that the modern-day English versions of the words sound similar is pure coincidence. Pen and pencil, two writing utensils with seemingly similar roots, actually refer to totally different things. Pen, from the Latin penna for feather, is because pens literally were originally feathers. Pencil, on the other hand, is from the Latin penicillus, which means paintbrush, because the word first referred to a paintbrush with a tapered end. Get the surprising backstory on more words that seem like they'd be related (house and penthouse, man and human, ginger and gingerly) with these videos.

Other Words That Seem Related But Aren't

House and penthouse, ginger and gingerly...

Weird Word Origins

Where do words like "tweet" or "lemur" come from?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. As language progresses over time, nouns have a tendency to become verbs. 00:23

  2. Association football emerged in England in the 1800s, which was shortened to the word "soccer" in 1860. 01:18

  3. The name for the root vegetable rutabaga was also once slang for dollars in the 1940s. 02:14

40 More Weird Word Origins

Muscle comes from the Latin root for "little mouse." But why?

Written by Curiosity Staff September 6, 2016

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