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Martin O'Leary Drafts an Impressive Etymology Graph on Twitter

Martin O'Leary Drafts an Impressive Etymology Graph on Twitter
(In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

A graph that traces words back to their origin and shows how they morphed along the way emerged on Twitter and is blowing people's minds. But the genius behind the graph that is mesmerizing people is not even a wordsmith. He's a glaciologist and research scientist at Swansea University in Wales who studies the interaction between the ocean and ice.

To clarify, etymologies are not word definitions. Instead, it's a study showing the origin of a word's meaning and how it's evolved since 600 or 2,000 years ago.

On Thursday, Martin O'Leary found common roots to random words rendered them into a visual etymology chart and posted several of these graphs on Twitter.

This tweet reads, "Languages are bananas." We see the appeal.

O'Leary was inspired by information from the Online Etymology Dictionary. He found that the words "blue," "riboflavin," "bleach," "phlegm," and "flamingo" were derivations from the Proto-Indo-European word "bhel," which means "to shine," of course.

The graph shows that "black," "phlegm" and "flamingo" stemmed from the Proto-Indo-European word "bhleg," meaning "to burn," which stemmed from "bhel." Fascinating.

What do "husband," "bondage," and "bumpkin" have in common? Nothing kinky with rural inhabitants, as far as we know.

But those three words, in addition to: "neighbor," "phyiscs," and" imp," all trace back to the Proto-Indo-European word of "bheue," which means "to exist" or "to grow."

Using "bondage" as an example, "bheue" became "bua," which means "to dwell" in Old Norse. The word eventually turned into "bondi," meaning "dweller" in Old Norse, and then it morphed into "bonda" in Old English, changing its meaning to "householder."

In Middle English, the word turned to "bond," which means "serf" before it became the English word we know today as "bondage."

What a trip!


The graphic posts were going viral, prompting O'Leary to share more.

He provides more examples, including one that shows "science" and "sh*t" are cousins, and "architect" and "dachshunds" are third cousins.

People wanted to learn more about the origin of various words. A whole world revealed itself, thanks to O'Leary.

H/T - Martinoleary, Twitter, etymonline, Digg