Chapter VII

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In the male reproductive system, the names of certain features come from a perceived resemblance to some object. For instance, glans is Latin for “” (from which “gland” is derived). The Latin word originally meant “tail” and was a mild obscenity in antiquity, whereas nowadays it is a standard anatomical term (although in some cases the Greek equivalent may be considered more appropriate). The word means “leather pouch,” an image also evoked by other names for this body part in antiquity, some of which had fiscal connotations of “money bag” (the French word for “stock exchange,” bourse, is etymologically related to one of the ancient terms for this body part). Further, means “jar” or “container,” which makes it a suitable term for the saclike dilatation of the vas deferens just before it meets the seminal vesicle. It is relatively easy to see why such terms might be selected, but some connections are not fully understood. For example, could mean both “testicle” and “witness,” and it is unknown whether they are the same word—some have speculated that testicles were “witnesses” to a man’s virility, and it was also pointed out that only a man could be a witness in court, since women were excluded from legal proceedings.

As in other anatomical systems, you will see a mixture of Latin, Greek, and English. Epididymis is a pure Greek word (“upon the ,” lit. “upon the twins”), while pubis contains a Greek and then a Latin word (“a growing together of the pubic bones”). Glans penis and vas deferens are pure Latin (you will learn about such phrases beginning in Chapter XI). “Prepuce” is ultimately from Latin (praeputium, “”), but was filtered through French. “Urinary bladder” is another mixture, coming from the Latin urina (“”) and the Germanic “bladder.”

Observe also that you have already studied a few key linguistic principles that are employed in some of these terms. The ejaculatory duct is one that is “disposed to ejaculate,” an example of the -ory suffix you learned in Chapter V, while “urinary bladder” employs the -ary suffix from Chapter IV (thus, “having to do with urine”). In Chapter II you learned that the Latin base vesic- means “,” and this is the form on which the diminutive “vesicle” is based. Likewise, recall that adjectives like “” (from Lat. semen) show how words derived from Latin can undergo a change in base depending on the form that is used.