Monday, June 10, 2019

Phalanges and phalanxes

The question came into my head when we were walking: are the words phalanges and phalanx related? Because a phalanx is like a whole bunch of phalanges, isn’t it? From Merriam-Webster:

The original sense of “phalanx” refers to a military formation that was used in ancient warfare and consisted of a tight block of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, several rows deep, often with shields joined. The word phalanx comes from the Greeks, though they were not the only ones who used this formation. The Greek term literally means “log” and was used for both this line of battle and for a bone in a finger or toe. The word and its senses passed into Latin and then were adopted into English in the 16th century. These days, a “phalanx” can be any arranged mass, whether of persons, animals, or things, or a body of people organized in a particular effort.
The plural form for the arranged mass is usually phalanxes. For bones, phalanges. And if you’re wondering, neither word is related to phallus. M-W has that word covered, so to speak.

Thanks, dictionary.

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