Thursday, November 30, 2017

Secret Origins: 5

It’s been several months since I’ve done one of these, so why not?

The word five comes from the Old English fif, Proto Germanic fimfe, and Proto Indo European penkwe, all of which mean five. Weird development, right? Penkwe to five, how the hell does that work? Plus it’s the origin of all the five words, like penta- and quint. And words you might not think of, like fist (five fingers in one, I guess), finger (they think), punch (although only the kind you drink, which is a way more interesting story) and Parcheesi. So now you all know that.

The numeral actually started out looking like a curly, backwards four. Then it got even more curly, then was just a circle in Arabic, from which it went to medieval Europe, where it looks like an upside down five. Weird, but it makes way more sense than the word’s origins.

I…guess that’s it? Not a very big one today. Pretty fascinating, though.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


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