Saturday, August 01, 2009

Knee-High to a Grasshopper

The English word knee had cousins in many languages: Teutonic, Frisian, Dutch, Norse, Gothic, Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. As so often happens, Latin and Greek in particular left their root imprints behind — γονατ (gonat-) for Greek and genu- for Latin.

I’m always interested in hidden forms, so let’s look at knee as it bends and twists its way through a number of words.

• adjeniculation: a kneeling to or towards.

• agonyclite: “Hereticks, in the seventh century, whose distinguishing tenet was, never to kneel, but to deliver their prayers standing.” [Bailey, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary]

• bight: a bending or curved geographical feature, from an Old Icelandic word meaning the hollow of the knee

• genicle: a joint in the stalk of a plant.

• geniculation: a bending of the knee.

• genual: pertaining to the knee.

• genuant: kneeling; in a kneeling posture.

• genuclast: a medical instrument used for breaking down adhesions in the knee joint.

• genuflect: to bend the knee, especially in worship.

• genuform: having the shape of a knee.

• gonagra: gout in the knee.

• ingeniculation: a bending of the knee.

• polygonate: having many joints.

SIDEBAR: Common Knee Injuries

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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