Re: Monogenhs etymology

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Sat Jan 04 1997 - 17:47:42 EST

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
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:01 EDT