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Latin Word of the Moment



A few choice words.

Adding colour to words we use today


13th March 2013


Statins - their name says it all


With all the debate about Statins going on, it seems timely to consider what a statins‘ are’, at least what they are according to their name.

Their first public use was in 1973 in the  ‘Science’ journal of 5 Jan. 79/3 We propose to name the peptide described here somatostatin, from somato(tropin), a pituitary factor affecting statural growth, and stat(in), from the Latin ‘to halt, to arrest’.

The Latin verb sto, stare (‘I stand’, ‘to stand’) has extensive meanings, one of which is indeed ‘to stand still’.

From that there followed a class of statin drug, including Lovastatin used to reduce (lo = ‘low’) levels of cholesterol in the vascular system (ie. fluid carrying system, ie blood vessels - vas being in Latin any kind of ‘vessel’ for containing something)


30th August 2013




Perhaps it’s cheating - this is LOTS of Latin Words of the Moment!  But it is proof that folk really do enjoy playing with Latin.


It has been reported that ‘Pictures of the surface of Mars, taken from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), are to be captioned in Latin on social media outlets as part of an outreach project.’

Materia cana rerum stratarum in Melani Chasmate  is their Latin version of ‘light-toned stratified materials in Melas Chasma’.

And ‘Mass wasting in Valles Marineris’ becomes Lapsus massarum in Valle Marineris.


Check out the longer BBC story (28 Aug 2013) on  to read more about this.

You can find the captions on tumblr, twitter and facebook.


21st August 2013




Well, it’s Greek, not Latin ...


Archaios meant ‘ancient’ or ‘primitive’, for arche was the ‘beginning’.


Logia was ‘debate’ or we would say ‘study’.  

Hence all those ‘-ologies’ - Geology (study of the ‘earth’ geo), Biology (study of living things/life bios).  They’re sciences (Anyone remember the British Telecom advert with Maureen Lipman “You got an -ology’!” ...)

This is because ancient Greek ‘debates’ on philosophy etc, were focussed on finding out ‘what is truth?’ [remember that Pilate asked Jesus ‘What is truth?’ - it was the standard question to ask at the time].


‘Archaeology’, therefore, is the ‘study’ of things ‘ancient’. We look at the ‘beginning’ of who we think we are - what made us ‘us’ through time ...  And it’s usually classed as a science (and is even often listed as ‘Archaeological Sciences’).


So if you know anyone who is trying to sort out their A-levels after their GCSE results this week, and they’re looking for a science they haven’t tried before ... Why not suggest archaeology to them - despite the archaios, it’ll be something totally new for them!  



4th August 2013



So the new Doctor Who is revealed today ... And his ‘name’, or rather his ‘title’, already tells us so much about our hero.


He has to be a ‘Doctor’ in our modern healing sense - keeping the world from harm and curing the ills of the universe.  But maybe there’s something of the original Classical meaning of the title from the days of antiquity, two thousand years ago (only twice the Doctor’s age!).   


For a doctor back then wasn’t a ‘medic’ (that was a medicus), but it was a ‘teacher’, one who had ‘disciples’ (‘those who learn’ - hence ‘discipline’ which teaches us how we should behave)*.


So, it’s a warm welcome to the 12th Doctor Who - we eagerly await to see which ancient Time Lord traits he displays ...


* Absolutely nothing to do with ‘disco’ dancing!  (Despite the Christopher Eccleston episode ‘The Doctor Dances’!)



2 August 2013



An English word that derives directly from the well-populated Latin language.  There was a verb, desolare which meant ‘to leave a person all alone and forsaken’.  But its other meanings are closer to that which Lord Howe appears to have implied: desolatus was somewhere or someone ‘deprived’ and ‘left without’ (ie. empty, poor) and even more so ‘emptied of inhabitants’ and ‘deserted’.  Also, the ‘de’ bit of the verb implies it’s down to the very furthest deepest depths of empty.

Well, we’re all figments of the gentleman’s imagination then!

And all that truly beautiful countryside down the Dale is an empty wilderness instead of productive farmland, is it ...?!


July 2013


salve !


This Latin word for ‘Hello’ has links with so many of our English words.  It’s all to do with ‘health’.  With the Latin letter ‘v’ being an alternative version to the letter ‘u’ (they only parted company in the sixteenth century thanks to the new printers in Europe), salus was all bound up in the same group of words.  It meant ‘personal safety’, ‘general well-being’ and ‘immunity from hurt or violence’, thus we ‘salute’ and greet with a ‘salutation’ (salutatio)in order to wish ‘strength’ and ‘health’ to those we meet.


  It was cruel irony that the Roman gladiators are recorded by the Roman historian Suetonius as having begun a spectacle of their violent deaths by ‘saluting’ the Emperor Claudius with morituri te salutant  -‘Those who are about to die, salute you’, or more precisely ‘wish you good health and protection from violence/harm’.  Hmm.


 ‘Salvation’ went a step further and, in the Church, came to means not just ‘being safe from harm’ or ‘well-being’, but receiving (eternal) spiritual wholeness and well being.


  And, closer to earthly or earthy matters, the plant salvia is so-named as this is the Latin for ‘sage’ (whose family the salvia belongs to) and sage was a medicinal herb, bringing ‘health’





candidatus described the ‘shining white’ toga of Romans standing for political office.

White was, as now, a sign of cleanliness in morals and honour as well as in any practical sense.

In the Republic, candidates would wear loose robes, so that they could show their honourable scars of battle - for a good politician had been through active military service on their way into the ‘cursus honorum’, the track of offices they worked their way up.

Of course, the scars were those on their front - any on their back would have implied they were running away at the time ... far from honourable !


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