Here’s a question for you: what do nuts and nucleus have in common?
No idea (unless you happen to be a semi-proficient Latin speaker)? Neither did I before I did this week’s Fun Etymology! So let me tell you what I just learned because today’s word is nuts!
Meaning the fruit of some trees and shrubs which have the seed enclosed in a woody covering, this word is inherited from Germanic. We thus find it in all stages of development of the English language.
In Middle English, the word was note, developed from Old English hnutu, which in turn comes from Proto-Germanic *hnut. Proto-Germanic *hnut is also the source of Old Norse hnot (modern Swedish nöt), Dutch noot, German Nuss.
But every word has its origin from somewhere, right? So too with Proto-Germanic *hnut. In this case, the word is a descendent of Proto-Indo-European *kneu-, meaning nut, and here is where nucleus comes in!
You see, nucleus derives from Latin nucleus, from Latin nucula meaning little nut. Nucula, in turn, is a diminutive of the word nux, meaning – you guessed it – nut. And nux descends from Proto-Indo-European *kneu-!
So there you have it!