Thursday, February 13, 2020

Secret Origins: 9

Yeah, I felt like doing something easy this week.

As a word, nine comes from the Middle English nin, from the Old English nigon (which would have been pronounced ni-jon or ni-yon). Before that, it was the Proto Germanic newun, and it can be traced to the Proto Indo European newn. Which, you know. Just means nine.

If you look at the numeral, you can see that nine has actually been pretty consistent. Now, as I’ve been saying the last nine times I’ve done this, the numeral system we use originated in India, probably because they had a lot of advances in math in the early centuries of the era—I’m sure in no small part because they were actually the first to have the concept of zero. The 9 looked more like a seven in Brahmi (which is weird because the 7 also looked like that, but at a different angle), but then in Hindu, it has a little loop on it, so it looks like a 9 facing the other direction. Arabic flipped it over and then, yeah, just nine.

So that’s it for the basic numerals, since every other number is made up of some combination of 0-9. But there are still words to look at. I’m sure I’ll get to more of those the next time I’m looking for an easy post.

Damn, first I finished letters, now numbers. What else can I look at?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Newn would've been a fun spelling.
    Animals, food, planets?

  2. I sent you the link to the random word generator, right? I don't think there's simple left. You might just have to rerun some of those posts when you're feeling lazy.

  3. I think the origins of food words would be interesting.

  4. Fairy creatures.

  5. You could go for even easier and simultaneously weird by trying to decipher the meaning of covfefe.


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