Mar 20, 2015

Wordology, Orchid

Take a look at certain orchids’ roots, and you will probably notice that they look like testicles. If not, you have set yourself apart from multiple generations of language-makers that simply could not help but name the whole plant family after this observation.

The contemporary word for the flower, introduced in 1845, comes from the Greek orchis, which literally translates as testicle. Speakers of Middle English in the 1300s came up with a phonologically different word inspired by the same exact dirty thought. They called the flower ballockwort from ballocks, or testicles, which itself evolved from beallucas, the Old English word for balls.