Matthew from Cadillac asked if the horns of a goat,
say, and the horns played in an orchestra are connected etymologically. The
short answer is yes.
The English word derived from various Germanic and
Scandinavian words. In turn, they owed their existence to the Latin cornu, horn. Originally, the word
designated a bony appendage on the head of certain mammals.
It then branched out to mean something shaped like
an animal’s horn. That applied to the musical instrument (which early on was
constructed from an animal’s horn) and to certain containers; think horn of
plenty, which is technically called a cornucopia. That makes the Latin origin
The word branched out into other meanings, too. It
was used as a biblical symbol of strength, might, and power. It designates the
device attached to motor vehicles that is sounded as a warning signal. It is
the name of the high pommel of a saddle, and in colloquial use, it was a
telephone. In logic, it is each of the alternatives of a dilemma.
In the 18th century, it began to be used
to name an erection. That explains the word horny, and it all comes together in
horny as a goat.
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