An etymology

Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Wed Apr 18 10:35:59 UTC 2001

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I don't know if it is worth pointing out the obvious to this learned
body, but "pupil" itself is originally (as Latin pupilla) a
diminutive of pup(p)a, the Latin for a doll; and the Ancient and
Modern Greek "kore:" means both girl and pupil of the eye.

Sanskrit kani:naka: has the same ambiguity; (but the alternative word
ta:raka: alludes rather to the link between the glint in the eye and
a star.)

So the semantic link between "puppet" (doll, effigy, image) and
"eyeball" is well established. It was always explained to me by the
fact that people are reflected in the pupil and look like little
miniatures from the view of an outside observer gazing deep into
another's eye!

Nicholas Ostler

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