Posted by: Jack Henry | May 10, 2017

Editor’s Corner: More Body Part Words (Ew!)

Yesterday, we covered a couple words from the Merriam-Webster article, “12 Words That Secretly Come from Body Parts.” Today I have a few more for your reading pleasure.


Definition: a student at a military school who is preparing to be an officer

About the Word: There is nothing to suggest that the people who invented the English language (whoever they are) had any animus towards cadets, but it is still puzzling that the term for this aspiring officer should have come from a word meaning ‘small head’. Cadet comes to English from the French word capdet, which is itself descended from the Late Latin capitellum (which is the aforementioned word meaning ‘small head’). Make of it what you will.


Definition: a sudden, impulsive, and apparently unmotivated change of mind

About the Word: The origins of caprice are both entertaining and somewhat quizzical. It comes from the Italian word capriccio, which itself is a combination of two distinct words. These words are capo (meaning head) and riccio (meaning hedgehog), in apparent reference to the quality of having one’s hair stand on end. As such, it would seem to be a better etymology for a word denoting terror rather than whimsy, but such are the caprices of language.


Definition: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

About the Word: Courage comes from the Old French word curage, which draws from the word cuer, meaning ‘heart.’ Another English word descended from cuer (albeit one that has wandered a bit farther afield) is cordial. Both it and courage ultimately can be traced back to the Latin cor, also meaning ‘heart.’ This proves that "You gotta have heart" is not just a line from a song in the Broadway play Damn Yankees, but is also a deeply profound etymological truism. Well, not really, but it does nicely show the connection between the heart and courage.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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