Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Daily Hump: The Gnomic Gnome

I just discovered that gnomic, an adjective meaning "marked by aphorisms or maxims", has no relation to the small race of men who live underground and are known for their pointy hats. Gnomic shares a root with gnostic, the Greek gignoskein, which means "to learn, to come to know" (the Proto-Indo-European base of "to know" is *gno-, the g becoming a k in Proto-Germanic, hence our word know).

Gnome, which was used in a 16th c. treatise by Paracelsus to mean "elemental earth beings", is from the Latin gnomus. This may come from the Greek *genomos "earth-dweller." The garden-variety gnome started appearing in English gardens around the mid 19th c. when they were imported from Germany.

For a great gnome resource check out Gnome and Garden.*

*Obligatory disclosure: I date the author's sister.

gnome [Online Etymology Dictionary]
gnomic [Online Etymology Dictionary]
gnomic [AHD]
gnome [Wikipedia]
gnosticism [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 8:01 AM


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