new life form for Latin?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat May 11 12:54:50 UTC 2002

>The term's obviously been formed in English (or possibly another modern
>language) on analogy to "in vivo" and "in vitro", because it isn't good
>"*In silico" would come from a nonexistent 2nd declension noun "silicus"
>or "silicum". The name of the element silicon is derived (AHD4) from New
>Latin "silica", the stuff of quartz, sand, etc., which in turn comes
>from Classical Latin "silex" 'flint'. These two nouns yield the phrases
>"in silica" (with long a) and "in silice" respectively.

The justification for "in silico" I think would be by analogy with Greek
words adopted into Latin. Taking "silicon" as a Greek word (not
unreasonable given its ending) but declining it according to Latin second
declension on the model of

"Ilion" (also Latinized as "Ilium") = "Troy" > "in Ilio" = "in Troy"

would give

imaginary Greek "silicon" (perhaps also Latinized as imaginary "silicum") =
"silicon" > "in silico" = "in silicon" ...

I think. Probably there are some real *common* nouns from Greek which
behave this way in (classical) Latin too, but I can't think of one right now.

Of course this isn't what probably really happened. Somebody just casually
took "silico" to be analogous to "vitro"/"vivo", probably with no real
understanding of Latin at all. Of course my own understanding is only
marginal: corrections are welcome.

-- Doug Wilson

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