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Origins of Mathematical Words

A Comprehensive Dictionary of Latin, Greek, and Arabic Roots

Anthony Lo Bello

Publication Year: 2013

Do you ever wonder about the origins of mathematical terms such as ergodic, biholomorphic, and strophoid? Here Anthony Lo Bello explains the roots of these and better-known words like asymmetric, gradient, and average. He provides Greek, Latin, and Arabic text in its original form to enhance each explanation. This sophisticated, one-of-a-kind reference for mathematicians and word lovers is based on decades of the author's painstaking research and work. Origins of Mathematical Words supplies definitions for words such as conchoids (a shell-shaped curve derived from the Greek noun for "mussel") and zenith (Arabic for "way overhead"), as well as approximation (from the Latin proximus, meaning "nearest"). These and hundreds of other terms wait to be discovered within the pages of this mathematical and etymological treasure chest.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-xviii

...This is a book about words, mathematical words, how they are made and how they are used. If one admits the proverb that life without literature is death, then one must agree that the correct formation and use of words is essential for any literature, whether mathematical or otherwise...

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pp. 1-41

...consonant, that is, before b or p) before Latin words, and un- before Germanic words. When this rule is violated, as, for example, in the case of the internet lingo unsubscribe, the resulting word is low, although in cases like unequal, the construction must be accepted due to immemorial custom. Verbs of Latin origin are made...

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pp. 42-49

...They were introduced by Jakob Bernoulli in his book Ars Conjectandi in 1713, pages 95–98. The passage in question is translated into English in the source books of David Eugene Smith and Dirk Struik. The mathematician Ernst Snapper (1913–2011) once asked me why it was that all books on probability refer to Jakob Bernoulli, while all books on number theory refer to Jacques Bernoulli. I could...

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pp. 50-101

...kidney stones, and even the gritty accumulation on the teeth. Since such pebbles were used as counters in counting, the verb calculo, calculare, calculavi, calculatus came into existence with the meaning to count. The verb calculate is derived from the fourth principal part of this verb, from which is...

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pp. 102-117

...This is the nominative plural of the Latin word datum, something given. The word therefore means some things that are given. It is a plural, and it must therefore be used with a plural verb. One says, “The data are…,” not “The data is…” The hyphenated absurdities data-centric (sc. discipline), data-enabled (sc. sciences), and data-intensive...

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pp. 118-144

...The letter e is the symbol for the Eulerian constant, 2.718281828 to nine decimal places. The mnemonic device, of use only to those competent in American history, is that 1828 was the year when Andrew Jackson was elected president of the United States...

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pp. 145-150

...should be as humble as possible. The Latin adjective facilis means easy to do and is derived from the verb facio, facere, feci, factus, to do. The overused modern word facilitator appears to be a noun of agent formed from the fourth principal part of a frequentative verb facilito, facilitare, facilitavi, facilitatus with the meaning to keep...

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pp. 151-157

...This is the third letter of the Greek alphabet, used in mathematics to denote a function of Euler and a probability distribution. In the mid-thirteenth century, the diagrams in mathematical manuscripts started to be labeled A, B, C,… in accordance with the Latin order of the letters, instead of...

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pp. 158-169

...of the February 1984 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine and Journal. The most famous example of these are those of the baldacchino of St. Peter’s Basilica by Bernini; he used six such columns at the Val de Grâce in Paris. Sir Christopher Wren intended the same for St. Paul’s in London, and...

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pp. 170-188

...ending in this way are usually the offspring of ignorance. The stem -al of the Latin adjectival suffix -alis has been superimposed upon an adjective ending in the stem -ic of the Greek adjectival suffix -ikÒj. This was done because those who did so did not recognize that the word they were dealing with was already an adjective...

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p. 189-189

...The Latin J, j came in late as a fancy I, i to be used for beauty’s sake when the i was a consonant or, in Italian, when the i ended a word, particularly if it was preceded by another i...

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p. 190-190

...This is another word of the French revolutionary metric system; it is one ten-thousandth of the distance from the north pole to the equator through the meridian of Paris. It should have been spelled chiliometer, since it is derived from the Greek...

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pp. 191-197

...This is a Latin noun with the meaning cavity, hollow, dip. It is used by textual critics to describe a situation where some words have fallen out of a text. The accent is on the middle syllable...

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pp. 198-219

...The abstract Latin noun magnitudo, which means great size, is derived from the adjective magnus, great, by adding the nominal suffix -tudo to the stem...

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pp. 220-226

...from the third principal part comes the feminine singular participle natura meaning that which is about to be born and, as a noun, nature. From natura is formed, by the addition of the suffix -alis to the stem, the adjective naturalis with the meaning pertaining to nature. These are the positive...

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pp. 227-232

...The Latin preposition ob is frequently prefixed to verbs. When this happens, its original adverbial sense of towards, to meet, is often retained. At other times it is merely pleonastic...

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pp. 233-263

...Latin adjective par means equal. The neuter plural is paria. In the development of the French language, the letters r and i were switched, and there was produced the noun paire, from which the English word is derived. Such switching is called by the Greeks metathesis, and by the Latins transpositio...

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pp. 264-268

...a square. It is related to the adjective quattuor, which means four. This prefix is therefore correctly attached to other words of Latin origin to convey the idea of four.

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pp. 269-282

...This appears to be the stem of a gerund from a Latin verb radico, radicare. This verb is intransitive and means to set down roots, to take root. Sometime in the sixteenth century, it took on the meaning to take the root of a number. Radicandus...

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pp. 283-308

...The Latin noun scala means a staircase. It is related to the verb scando, scandere, scandi, scansus, which means to climb. The addition of the adjectival suffix -alis to the stem of the noun produced the word scalaris, with the meaning pertaining to a staircase...

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pp. 309-334

...Tabula is the Latin word for table. The addition of the suffix -aris to the stem produces the adjective tabularis, pertaining to a table. The suffix -aris was used instead of the suffix -alis for the sake of euphony...

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pp. 335-338

...less comical to say “ten to the thirty-ninth.” Undecem is the Latin word for eleven; -illion is derived from the Latin mille, a thousand, with the augment -on (originally -one in Italian), which means big. A million is just a big thousand...

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pp. 339-343

...The French verb valoir means to be worth; its past participle is valu, from which is derived the French and the English noun value. The French verb is derived from the Latin verb valeo, valere, valui, which means to be strong....

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p. 344-344

...word This noun is cognate with the Latin verbum, which has the same meaning. Verbum, in turn, is related to the Greek e‡rw, which means to say, speak, or tell.

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p. 344-344

...says that there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that x is actually the metamorphosis of the medieval cursive r, the first letter and abbreviation of the noun res, thing. (Medieval authors writing in Latin referred to an unknown quality as res, that is, the thing. To....

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p. 344-344

...The letter y is neither Latin nor Greek. Dr. Johnson says in his dictionary that it was a symbol much used by the Saxons instead of i. When transliterating Greek into English, y is to be used for upsilon...

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p. 345-345

...z-axis The letter z is the Greek zeta. It is not a Latin letter and was used by the Romans only to transliterate the Greek zeta in words that they took over from the Greek language...


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pp. 346-350

E-ISBN-13: 9781421410999
E-ISBN-10: 1421410990
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421410982
Print-ISBN-10: 1421410982

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2013