Wordy Weekly IV

One Latin, one Greek again this week.

We start with buckle.

i) BUCKLE – this word’s linguistic journey from Latin is an interesting story. Ultimately the word goes back to the Latin word ‘bucca’ meaning ‘jaw’, ‘cheek’, and also ‘cavity’. Buckle derives more directly from bucca’s diminutive (‘little’) form ‘buccula’ (‘little cheek’). You might be wondering what a buckle has to do with your cheek? Well, buccula also refers to the ‘cheek-piece’ of a helmet, and in later Latin it came to refer to the ‘boss’ (central hub) of a shield. The French ‘boucle’ (metal ring), derived from the Latin, more clearly illustrates the link between our English word buckle and the Latin bucca, or buccula.

For more about the links with French and the verb ‘to buckle’, follow the link below:


(etymonline is a wonderful website for those interested in word origins)

Interesting fact: the Italian for ‘buckle’ does not come from the Latin ‘buccula’ as one might reasonably assume. The word is ‘fibbia’, which comes from the Latin for ‘brooch’ FIBULA. From this, we also take the name for the ‘fibula’ bone, as it was considered to resemble a brooch pin.

ii) BIOLOGY – βιολογία, one could perhaps argue that this is more of a transliteration of its Greek original than a derivative (also French la Biologie), but it is an interesting one if we break down the word into its components. It is also one of many English scientific words that derive ultimately from Greek. Biology breaks down as follows:

βιος (bios) - life, lifetime

λογος (logos) - account, explanation

(this gives us our suffix -logy – study (of)

So, biology is the ‘study of life’ (hey, you already knew that!)

The Greek verb βιολογεομαι means ‘to be sketched/drawn from life’.

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