Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Bill from Merritt, Michigan, mused on the word scale, which can encompass diverse meanings from relative size to the covering on a fish to a musical progression. As with many words having multiple meanings, though the spelling is identical, the origins may have absolutely nothing in common. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary covers the word.

scale-1  [ON skál bowl]
·      a drinking bowl
·      an apparatus for weighing things

scale-2  [Ger. skaljā shell]
·      small thin membranous or horny outgrowths on the skin of many fish and reptiles
·      a husk that may be peeled off or detached in flakes
·      the tartar that collects on teeth
·      a symbol of physical or moral blindness  (Acts ix.18)
·      the hard deposit that forms in vessels used to boil water

scale-3  [L. scala ladder]
·      a ladder, especially one used to scale a wall in battle
·      a graduated series of sounds into which an octave is divided
·      a progression of steps measuring from lowest to highest
·      a graduated table (e.g., a salary scale)
·      relative or proportionate size

Obsolete meanings included
·      a hut
·      a squadron or battalion
·      the amount of timber standing or in cut logs
·      a seaport town

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