Re: Monogenhs etymology

Jonathan Robie (
Sat, 04 Jan 1997 17:47:42 -0500

At 12:43 PM 1/4/97 -0500, wrote:

>Jonathan Robie wrote, "In general, I think that usage is a safer guide to
>the meaning of words than derivation. Pineapple is composed of two words,
>"pine" and "apple"..."
> [A quick look at my dictionary, which is medium sized, indicates that
> pineapple may not come from "pine" + "apple". I had the dictionary
> out because I was going to use "dilapidated" as an example of
> etymological fallacy because even though (a teacher said) it was
> derived from the Latin "lapis" it doesn't necessarily refer to stone
> structures. Unfortunately, "lapis" is not part of the etymology of
> "dilapidated". As a Classics major I should have known better.]

My Oxford English Dictionary says that pine-apple originally referred to the
pine-cone, which is the fruit of the pine, and also to pine-nuts. The second
sense is the fruit of the ananas, the thing we all think of as pineapples.
It claims that the term pineapple came from the similarity in appearance
between a pineapple and a pine-cone.

This seems typical to me. Derivation *does* contain interesting information
about a word, but you never know exactly *what* influenced the derivation
unless you know something about the historical usage of the word. Suppose
you knew nothing about pineapples, and encountered the word in an ancient


Jonathan Robie
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