last week how I started talking about cell (coming from the Proto Indo Europeankel-, to
cover/conceal/save) and it got crazy fast? Yeah. That was just a warm up for
today, we’re looking at hull. Like on a ship. And also like the outer casing of
a seed, because people used to say that ship keels looked like open peapods,
although it’s not totally sure that
the two are related. The one thing that’s sure is that the seed covering hull
comes from the Middle
from the Old
from the Proto
to cover. And that word happens to be from kel-. There’s also hold—not like
holding an object, the hold of a ship. A ship hold showed up in the fifteenth century as a corruption of the Middle English holl, the hull of a ship. What? You thought it was because it was
something that held cargo? Don’t be ridiculous.
comes from the Old English heall, a large room in a residence where “social and public affairs of the house” take place, and somehow that’s descended from kel-. Maybe the
house business was something they wanted concealed? Anyway, it didn’t mean a passageway
until the seventeenth century, evolving from a sense that doors to private
rooms in the house opened to the large public room. No, I’m not sure how you
get from one to the other, I’m just reporting it (hallway came two centuries later, BTW, so that had no influence). Anyway, if you ever wondered why a town hall is
called that, it’s because it’s one of the only uses of the word that’s close to
the original meaning.
hole. It comes from the Old English hol,
which means a cave or pit, coming from the Proto Germanic hulan, which is from kel-. I guess because you can hide things in
holes? Also related is hollow, which hole mostly replaced in English. It showed
up in the thirteenth century from the Old English holh and Proto Germanic hul-,
both of which we can probably assume are from the same words as hole descended
today, a helm, as in, the one you’d wear on your head, not like you steer a
ship. The word helmet showed up in the mid fifteenth century, and it’s possibly from helm. To be honest, people aren’t totally sure, so it’s
just a guess that it’s from helm, which comes from the Old English helm, Proto Germanic helmaz,
which is then from kel-. Since a helmet is a covering for the head, you can
kind of see it, although not why they dropped the K and replaced it with H.
I haven’t etymologized “cell” before! That’s the only criteria I need to do it!
Also, this will be a multi-parter, but not a big multi-parter. I think we’ve
had enough of that for now.
showed up in the early twelfth century meaning a small monastery, before a small room for a
religious figure inside the
monastery. It comes from the classical Latincella,
which just means cell (and is an excellent brand of chocolate covered
cherries), and is related to celare,
to hide. That actually can be traced to the Proto Indo Europeankel-, to
cover, conceal, or save. So because monks/nuns hide away in tiny rooms, that’s
what a cell became known as.
it’s morphed a lot since then. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that it
was used in a prison sense. And yet amusingly, it was used in reference to
brain in the fourteenth century, as people used it in reference to different “rooms”
of the brain having different functions. In biology, it was actually used in
the seventeenth century—so again, this predates the prison sense, although back
then it was in refreence to different cavities in anything, like in honey combs, and it wasn’t until the nineteenth
century that it specifically referred to first an electric battery, and then a
few decades later an organism. As for the phone usage, cell there is short for
cellular, which showed up in 1753 meaning “resembling cells”. That word is actually
from the Latin cellularis, of cells. It was in 1977 that it was first used in relation
to phones, because mobile phone systems were divided into “cells” served by
transmitters. And then it was shortened again into cell phone.
is related to a few other words by way of kel-, and of course that’s where
things get amusing. Conceal is also descended from it, having shown up in the
early fourteenth century as concelen. It’s from the Old Frenchconceler, to hide, and the classical
Latin concelare, to hide. Con- is
probably intensive here, and we’ve already seen celare, so the word is “to
really hide”. There’s also ceiling, which showed up in the mid fourteenth century as celynge. It comes from the Middle
to put a cover or ceiling over, and before that, the Old French celer, to conceal, and you see where
this is going. It comes from celare, too. A ceiling covers/hides you, so…
today, color. Yes, really. It showed up in the early thirteenth century meaning skin color, from the Anglo
and Old French color, color or
complexion. It’s from the Old Latincolos, which means “a covering”, and is also from kel-. Fun
fact, the Old
English word for color was hiw, AKA hue.