Thursday, 10 July 2008

optician and window

Earlier in the week I saw an ophthalmologist for some vision problems. Of course this got me thinking about the different words we have for eye doctors. optician and optometrist are clearly from Greek ὀπτός optos "visible" from the Proto-Indo-European root *h₃ekʷ- "to see" (-metrist from Greek μέτρον metron "measure" from *meh₁-).

ophthalmologist is a bit more obscure. In the first place I had trouble finding it because I thought it was spelled ophthamologist. Anyway, it's from Greek όφθαλμος ophthalmos "eye", which is not in Liddell and Scott, [update: it is] altho they have many related words like διακῠνοφθαλμίζομαι diakunophthalmizomai "to look askance one at another", δῠσ-όφθαλμος dusophthalmos "offensive to the sight" and ἐξόφθαλμ-ος eksophthalmos "with prominent eyes".

The AHD says όφθαλμος is derived from *h₃ekʷ- with taboo deformation. Why the word for "eye" would be taboo, I don't know. The Ancient Greek word for "eye" that is more certainly derived from *h₃ekʷ- is ὤψ ōps "eye, face, countenance".

*h₃ekʷ- became Proto-Germanic *auǥon "eye", Old English ēaġe, and then Modern English eye.

In Old Norse, the Proto-Germanic word became auga "eye". Combined with vindr "wind" it formed vindauga literally "wind-eye". This was borrowed into Middle English as window, and replaced the Old English words for window, ēaġþyrl "eye-hole" and ēaġduru "eye-door".

The AHD also tells us that the Latin reflex, oculāris "of or belonging to the eyes", combined with ante- to form *anteoculāre "before the eyes". This became Old French antoillier "antler" and then Middle English antler. However, the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology says that the derivation of antoillier from *anteoculāre is not phonologically tenable.


Richard Cobbe said...

Not to pick nits, but I was able to find ὀφθαλμός in Liddell & Scott pretty easily: both here and in my hardcopy of the Middle Liddell.

Wonderful blog, by the way--I always enjoy to your posts! Thanks particularly for taking the time to do a survey of various sources when discussing etymologies. Since sources so often differ, it's nice to know how much agreement there is (or isn't) on various words.

goofy said...

Wow, it's weird that I couldn't find it the first time. Thanks for the info and the kind words.

Glen Gordon said...

The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology speaks not of this nebulous taboo excuse. :) According to it, Greek ophthalmós is from a verb *ophthállesthai built on a noun *ophthallos which is said to be a variant of Boeotian óktallos "eye" which is most closely cognate with Sanskrit ákṣi "eyes".