Monday 8 November 2021

The Illustrated Etymologicon


It is of immense importance to absolutely everyone that The Illustrated Etymologicon is now published, out, in the shops, for sale, and begging to be bought. 

It's the same text as the original Etymologicon, but now filled, on each and every page, with delicious illustrations. 

Is is therefore illustrious.

Illustrious and illustration both come from the Latin illustratus which meant lit up. In English the word illustration came first, and it meant to teach by means of examples, shedding light upon an abstract subject. 

The Illustrated Etymologicon is therefore both illuminating and illuminated, enlightening and enlightened. It is, if you like, an illuminated manuscript. 

The book is available in most English speaking territories, and in the lost former colony of the USA it can still be obtained by ordering it from The Book Depository.

Incidentally, the mini in miniature has nothing whatsoever to do with the mini in minute or minimum or miniskirt. In Medieval illuminated manuscripts there were little pictures painted by little monks. These pictures were often painted using red lead or minium. Because of that the verb for painting little pictures was miniare. And because of that the little pictures were called miniatures. The word then got applied to anything small. 

Anyhow, all your Christmas presents are going to be this:


  1. Hi Mark. I like your book a lot. Is it possible to provide a word index? I don't mean a general keyword index. But an index of the words the book discusses. Table of Contents doesn't work well. For instance, I want to find your description of the word "alcohol" as I remember something interesting you said (Arabic origin and yet Muslims don't drink alcohol). But the Table of Contents doesn't have the word "alcohol". Luckily, gives a preview of the book so I can search there and find it. Thank you for consideration!

  2. In the chapter about the origin of the word Nazi it is mentioned that it was before a known insult for Bavarians? I am German and live in Bavaria I am pretty sure the word is called Bazi not Nazi. So I wonder why Hitler had a problem with Bazi. Confused

  3. Just finished The Etymologicon (2011). Page 190: "The Vietnam War gave American English...poontang...." John O'Hara used poon-tang in a 1927 letter, Thomas Wolfe used it in "Look Homeward, Angel" (1929), and The Treniers released a song titled "Poon Tang!" in 1952 on the Okeh label. The Vietnam War may have popularized the word, but it had been around for decades.