Tuesday, 4 January 2011

capillary and disheveled

Latin capillus "hair" beget capillāris "pertaining to hair", borrowed into English as capillary which first meant "Of, pertaining to, consisting of, or concerned with hair", then "Having a very minute or hair-like internal diameter; as a capillary tube or capillary vessel".

discapillātus/dēcapillātus meant "stripped of hair, shaven" (with the negative prefix dis-), becoming Old French deschevelé. This was borrowed into English as dishevelled/disheveled. It first meant "Without coif or head-dress; hence, with the hair unconfined and flung about in disorder" and then later "Disordered, ruffled, disorderly, untidy" (OED).

Is capillus perhaps a diminutive of caput "head"? I have no idea.

1 comment :

Glen Gordon said...

Some call it a diminutive while others have proposed that capillus is for capitis pilus 'hair of the head'.