Saturday, February 29, 2020


A reader asked about the origin of the Hebrew word for diagonal - אלכסון alakhson. It first appears in Rabbinic Hebrew (also as lokhsan לוכסן). Klein provides the following etymology:

PBH diagonal (line). [Borrowed from Greek. Lixon, neuter loxos (= standing crosswise, oblique)]

In his CEDEL, in the entry for "lekane" (a large dish or bowl), Klein says it derives from the Greek lekose (a dish, pot, pan), and that word is probably cognate with the loxos mentioned above, due to the way the sides of a dish or bowl bend inwards.

A Latin cognate of lekose is lanx, and that provides us with two English words that I would not have thought were related.

One is "balance." This is the entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary:

early 13c., "scales, apparatus for weighing by comparison of mass," from Old French balance "balance, scales for weighing" (12c.), also in figurative sense; from Medieval Latin bilancia, from Late Latin bilanx, from Latin (libra) bilanx "(scale) having two pans"

The other is even stranger - it was originally part of the phrase that became the word satire:

late 14c., "work intended to ridicule vice or folly," from Middle French satire (14c.) and directly from Latin satira "satire, poetic medley," earlier satura, in lanx satura "mixed dish, dish filled with various kinds of fruit," literally "full dish"

Interesting, no?