Tuesday, 7 September 2010

orchid and orchestra

English orchid was borrowed from the scientific name Orchideae, which is from Latin orchis "any of various kinds of orchid" - early botanists misinterpreted the Latin stem as ending in -d-. The Latin word was borrowed from Greek ὄρχις orkhis "testicle", from Proto-Indo-European *h₁erǵh- "to mount" (AHD).

Also according to the AHD, *h₁erǵh- in the suffixed o-grade form *h₁orǵh-eyo- became Greek ὀρχέομαι orkheomai "to dance", and ὀρχήστρα orkhēstra "in the theatre the space on which the chorus danced" - which was the earliest meaning of orchestra in English.

Pokorny has two roots: *orĝhi-, *r̥ĝhi- "testicle" and *ergh- "to shake, tremble" - the latter is the source of orchestra. Connecting both roots with the meaning "to mount", as the AHD does, seems a stretch to me.

The OED says the etymology of ὀρχέομαι is uncertain, and says its derivation from Pokorny's "to shake, tremble" is "unsatisfactory".

1 comment :

zmjezhd said...

Burgess, in his The Doctor Is Sick, mentions the Cockney rhyming slang orchestra (stalls) for 'balls'.