Often, the similarities in related words are obvious. Not so with the etymological descendants of the Proto-Indo-European word deik-.
Deik-‘s original meaning was to show or pronounce solemnly. A secondary meaning had to do with the directing of words or objects.
One of the descendants of deik- made its way to Greek to become diskos, meaning disk, platter, or quoit (a quoit is a ring of rope or iron thrown toward a peg in a game much like horseshoes). Diskos moved from Greek into Latin in the form of discus, where it meant disc or quoit. By the 1660s it made its way to English (spelled disc or disk) to mean round, flat surface, & picked up the meaning phonograph record in 1888, computer information storage device in 1947 (who knew?) & the usage disk drive in 1952.
Deik-‘s time in Greek also gave birth to the form dicare, to proclaim or dedicate. It then traveled through Latin to become dicere, to speak, tell or say, & showed up in English in the 1540s as diction, meaning a word. By the 1580s diction meant expression in words & by the 1700s it also meant choice of words & phrases.1748 brought the meaning speech or oratory. And in this same etymological strain in 1526 the word dictionary was born, meaning a repertory of phrases or words.
When the Germans (or Proto-Germans to be exact) got hold of deik-, it became taiknam, show explain or teach, which made its way into Old English as tacen, meaning sign, symbol or evidence, & then became our modern word token. This same Proto-German>German strain of deik- turned into the word teach. Its Old English form was tæcan, to train, warn, persuade, or give instruction.
Though etymologists don’t connect the word dactyl with deik-, it appears that deik may have also referred to fingers (probably due to its meaning show). Deik definitely referred to toes, even though few folks use their toes to show things. The toe strand of the family tree came through Proto-Germanic as taiwho, then into Old English as toe. Interestingly, the plural of toe was originally tan.
I hope all that inspires you to leave a comment (or possibly to be thankful nobody needs to remember all this stuff)..
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam Webster, & the OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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