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Body parts

Eyebrows, cabbages, and other body parts

The etymology of the English language is awash in body parts. We have hundreds of words that have been formed, Frankenstein-like, by taking bits and pieces of the human body. For instance, we have numerous words containing hands in them – chiropractic comes to English from the Greek root kheir (meaning hand), and the Latin word for hand, manus, has provided us with manual, manage, mandate, manuscript, and many others.

Head start

We have also created kowtow, cabbage, and capital from the various words that older languages have for head: kowtow comes from Chinese ketóu, literally knock + head; cabbage comes from Old French caboche; and capital is taken from Latin capitalis. We have words with bits of shoulder (epaulette), knees (genuflect), and fingers and toes (digital). There is even a word made up from eyebrows – supercilious (meaning ‘behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others’) comes from the Latin supercilium (eyebrow).

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