Etymology – C

C – arabic from comes from rounding of Greek gamma from Phoenician sign for camel

Cab – contraction of “cabriolet”, a small one-horse carriage

Caballero – Spanish knight or gentleman; “one who rides a horse” (caballo)

Cabiri – from Phoenician for “powerful”; the name for the seven planets collectively

Caboodle – possibly from the Dutch word “boedel”, possession

Cadmus – Greek, son of Agenor the king of Phoenicia; introduced alphabet to Greece; Athena counseled him when attacked to throw a precious stone in the middle of the attackers who fought each other for it

Caesar – male members of the dynasty after Julius retained this name; “Kaiser” and “Tsar” are both derivatives of Caesar

Calculate – from Latin “calculi”, pebbles; pebbles used by Romans for counting

Mohammedan Calendar – dates from July 16th, 622 the day of Hegira; 12 lunar months consisting of 29 days 12 hours and 44 minutes each; each year is 354 or 355 days; a cycle is 30 years

Caliban – meaning rude, uncouth, unknown; allusion to Shakespeare’s Caliban in The Tempest who was a half-human son of a devil and a witch

Caliph – successors of Mohammed; where the name Khalifa is derived

Calisto and Arcas – Calisto made into a she-bear by Jupiter; her son Arcas was to kill her before Jupiter turned him into a bear, too; sent to the stars as Big and Little Bear

Calvary – Latin translation of Greek “golgotha”, Hebrew for skull; where Jesus was crucified

Calypso – queen of Ogygia where Ulysses crashed; she promised him eternal youth, he dipped

Cameo – ornamental carving on precious stone

Camilla – Roman legend of a virgin queen so quick she could run over a field of corn without bending a stalk or over the sea without wetting her feet

Candidate – from Latin “candidatus”, clothed in white; Roman candidates for office would wear loose white to show their scars and symbolize purity

Candlemas Day – February 2nd, feast of Purification of Virgin Mary presenting Jesus in the Temple; later Groundhog Day

Cannae – where Hannibal defeated the Romans; any turning point in a general’s prosperity

Cannibal – from Spanish “canibales”, a corruption of “caribes”, inhabitants of the Caribbean that Columbus found and assumed ate human flesh

Canopy – properly means a gnat curtain; from Greek “konops”, a gnat

Canteen – properly means a wine-cellar; from Italian “cantina”, a cellar

Canvas – a cloth made of hemp; from Latin “cannabis”, hemp

Carat – 1/142 of an ounce; 1/24 of pure gold: 22 karats is 22 parts gold and 2 parts alloy

Cardinal – Latin “cardo”, hinge; on which something turns or depends

Carnival – season before Lent; Latin “carnis”, flesh; and “levare”, to remove; meat abstinence

Carpet Knight – real knights were knighted on the battlefield not kneeling on carpets in court

Cartel – originally an agreement for prisoner exchange; then the ship; then all transactions

Cartesian Philosophy – system of Rene Descartes; cogito ergo sum; motion excited by God

Cartoon – designs were drawn on “cartone”, a pasteboard

Casino – a little “casa” where would retire after a party

Cassandra – a Greek prophetess; she passed on Apollo’s advances, so he denounced her

Casuist – “the art of quibbling with God”; a hair-splitter

Cat – Satan’s favorite form; Roman symbol of liberty; Egyptian sacred to Isis the moon; male is a Tom, female Doe

Let the Cat Out of the Bag – trick to substitute pig for a cat in a bag to sell; disclose the trick

Catastrophe – from Greek “kata”, downwards; and “strephein”, to turn

Catholic – from the Greek word “katholikos”, general or universal

Caudillo – title for fascist leader of Spain, General Franco

Caveat – from Latin for “let him beware”

Celtic – the branch of Aryans including Irish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, and Scottish; the word “Celt” probably means warrior

Cemetery – from Greek “koimeterion”, dormitory; properly a sleeping place

Centurion – Roman officer who had the command of 100 men

Ceremony – through Latin, from Sanskrit “karman”, a religious action, rite

Cestus -girdle for Venus made by Vulcan; Mars’s love made it fall off

Chapter – from Latin “caput”, head

Charlemagne – Charles the Great, founded the Holy Roman Empire in 800

Charm – from Latin “carmen” a song

Charon’s Toll – a coin placed in the mouth or hand of the dead to pay the toll to pass the River Styx in the Underworld guided by Charon

Chateau – French for mansion, castle, or country seat; wines bottled by certain chateaus

Chauvinism – blind, exaggerated patriotism; named after Nicholas Chauvin, a soldier and obsessive admirer of Napoleon

Checkmate – from Arabic “shah mat”, the king is dead

Chess – the game of the kings; from the Arabis “shah” to shag to saccus to eschec to chess

Chimaera – Greek word for “she-goat”; monster with goat’s body, lion’s head, and dragon’s tail

Chivalry – similar origin as cavalry; horsemen were the ideal conception of life

Chopsticks – from Chinese “k’wai-tsze”, the quick ones

St. Christopher – a giant who carried a child over a brook; the child was Jesus and Christopher carried the sins of the world; Christ-bearer

Cigar – from Spanish “cicada”, the cigar-shaped beetle

Cincinnatus – Roman hero, delivered his country from danger before returning to his plough

Cinderella – Eastern origin; glass slipper is a mistranslation of “pantoufle en vair”, a fur slipper, instead of “en verre”, glass

Cipher – from Arabic “cifr”, zero

Citadel – from Italian “citadella”, a little city

City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia; from Greek “philo”, love and “delphi”, womb

Claque – a body of hired applauders at a theater or other performance

Claymore – two-edged sword used by Scottish Highlanders; from Gaelic “claidheamh”, sword and “mor”, great

Clean and Unclean Animals among ancient Jews, those animals that chew the cud and part the hoof were clean. Unclean animals include rabbits, pigs, and birds of prey

Clerical Title – clerk, could read and write; curate, has the cure of souls; parson, full rights; rector, rules and guides the parish; vicar, a deputy

Climax – Greek for ladder

Knight of the Cloak – Sir Walter Raleigh; threw his cloak onto a puddle for Queen Elizabeth to step on as she entered her barge

Clotho – one of the Three Fates who presided over birth; the other two being Atropos, death, cut the Thread of Life, and Lachesis, spun the fate between birth and death

Clue – from Sanskrit “cloewen”, a ball of thread; one would follow thread to escape labyrinth

Cluricaune – another name for Leprechaun

Clytie – ocean nymph in love with Apollo; turned into a sunflower which still turns with the sun

Coffee – Turkish word is “qahwah”, pronounced “kahveh”

Cold Blood – not in the heat of temper

Against the Collar – when a horse travels uphill the collar is more taut; fatiguing

College – from Latin “collegium”, partnership or colleagueship

Colorado – from Spanish “coloured”; reddish appearance

Flying Colors – victorious ships would sail into the harbor with all of their flags flying

Colors Nailed to the Mast – hold out to the end; nailed flags could not be lowered in surrender

Accidental Colors – seen on a white background after staring at a bright object; accident of red is bluish green, pf orange dark blue, and of violet yellow, and conversely

Comedy – from Greek “Kome-ode”, village song

Comrade – from Spanish “camera”, sleeping chamber; one who sleeps in the same chamber

Conclamatio – loud cry raised by those around a death bed at the moment of death

Consummatum est – Latin, “it is finished”; the last words of Christ on the cross

Contango – in Stock Exchange, sum paid to seller on a futures payment

Cooper – half stout and half porter; from porters’ daily beer allowance being one of each

Cop – to catch or capture which is why police officers are called such

Copper – among alchemists the symbol of Venus

Copper-nose Harry – Henry VIII; called after the silver-coated copper coins minted with his face emboldened on them; the silver would wear down and reveal copper at his nose

Coral – Romans would band red corals around infants’ necks to ward off sickness

Cordon Bleu – French for “blue ribbon”; one time the highest order of France

Cornish Hug – used to overthrow you; Cornish men were great wrestlers

Cosmopolite – Greel for “citizen of the world”

Coup d’etat – French for “a state stroke”; government action to overthrow the ruling body

Coup de Grace – the finishing stroke or stroke of mercy

Coupon – from French “couper”, to cut; you cut coupons out of the newspaper to redeem

Court – from the Latin word for cohort; men originally met in sheep enclosures/cohorts

Court Cards – king of clubs represented the Pope; spades = King of France; hearts = England; diamonds = Spain

Courtesy – manners of the court, royal or otherwise

Cousin Michael – represents Germans; “Michel” in old German means “gross”

Coward – from Latin “cauda”, tail; scared animals turn tail, cower

Creole – person of European parentage born in West Indies/central America; used by French of white residents in Louisiana

Cretinism – corruption of “Christian”, Chretien; imbeciles, when baptized, are washed of original sin and incapable of actual sin due to their mental defects

Crillon – a man, named The Brave, who questioned his role in the Crucifixion

Crisis – from Greek “krinein”, to decide; Hippocrates said that diseases hebbed through critical days and crisis days, the latter of which could be used to determine the course of the rest of the illness

Crispin – a shoemaker of which St. Crispin is the patron saint; shoemakers don’t work on Mondays, called St. Crispins holidawest

Crocodile – symbol of deity among Egyptians, no tongue so need not speak and eyes above water with thin membrane so it can see but not be seen

Crusade – eight principle Crusades beginning in 1095 and ending in 1272; commanded by Pope to recover the Holy Land from Muslim conquerers

Cuba – Latin “cubare”, to line in bed; Roman deity who guarded infants in their cribs

Cunning – Old English “cunnan”, to know

Cupid – Latin “cupido”, desire

Curfew – French “cuevrefeu”, cover fire; bells ring in evening to signal putting out of fires

Curry Favor – from medieval allegories describing a fallow horse that had indefinite color, deceit

Cut of one’s jib – jib is a triangular foresail that sailors would use to judge incoming ships

Cycle of the Moon – Metonic Cycle of 19 years in which the phases of the moon repeat on the same days as they did 19 years earlier

Cypress – funeral tree because once it is cut it never grows again; dedicated to Pluto