Math Word Origins

Curious about where certain math words come from? Here are the origins of some of the words used in our various lessons:

Percent is from the Latin word per centum which was used as an abbreviation and means “by the hundred”. It was later abbreviated per cent. Using the period punctuation, but eventually the two words came together as one and the period was dropped. Have students create sentences using the word percent.

Example: Hannie saved a percent of her allowance each week.

Graph, the shortened version of the word graphic, is implied in the word graphical from the Latin word graphicus which means picturesque. Picturesque is from the Greek word graphikos meaning for writing or belonging to drawing, which is from the word graphe meaning writing or drawing.

In math, a graph is used to illustrate different information and numbers so that it is easier to understand. For example, rainfall is graphically shown by using a bar graph. Ask students to think of other everyday uses for graphs.

Geometry is from the Latin word geometria and the Greek word geometria, both with the same spelling, which means measurement or measure of earth or land. The prefix, geo or ge means earth or land plus metria, which means to measure. Geometry is the study of mathematics that deals with the properties and relationships of lines, angles, points, surfaces and solids.

Hannie saved a percent of her allowance each week.

Estimation is from the Latin word aestimationem which means a valuation, and from the word aestimare which means to value. Used as a noun, estimation can be a document or a calculation that provides an approximate value of something such as an item like a car or house. It tells you how much something is worth or how much it cost.

Coin is from the Latin word cuneus, which means a wedge. In the late 1300’s, a wedge-shaped die was used to stamp metal and the word coin became associated with things that were stamped, or more familiar a piece of money. A die is a device used for stamping materials such as metals. A coin became known as any flat, circular piece of metal that was used as money.

Median is from the Latin word medianus which means of the middle and comes from the word medius meaning middle. In mathematics it is known as the middle number in a series or set of numbers that are placed in order. It is also called the midpoint. The middle is known as point that divides something in half with basically two equal parts, one on each side. In the 1950’s the phase median strip became know as the strip of land between the two lanes of a highway.

Tax is originally from the Old French language word taxer which means “impose a tax”. Also known in the 13th century as being from the Latin word taxare, which means “evaluate, estimate, assess, or value.

Synonyms for the word tax include duty, impose, levy, and charge. The word tax also can mean a burden or an excessive demand.

Hannie taxed her mother’s patience.

Clothing is a taxed item in Hannie’s home state.

After running the mile, Hannie was taxed.

Denomination is originally from the Latin word denominationem which means “a naming” and was from the late 1300’s. In the mid 1600’s it was from the Latin word denominare which means “to name completely” and is from de meaning completely and nominare meaning “to name”.

Denomination is a naming or designation and can be used to describe or name many things. For example, it is used to name religious groups such as the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and others. In the case of money it is used as a value system.

Inventory is from the 1415 Middle French word inventaire meaning “detailed lists of goods,” which is from the Medieval Latin word inventorium, meaning ‘list of what is found,” which is from the Latin word inventus meaning “to find.” The word origin meanings all fit well with the current day use for the word which refers to itemized reports, records, and list that show quantity for various items.

Profit is from the Latin word profectus meaning “to profit or make progress”. The word usage after 1912 has primarily been as a noun.

For example: The school store has profited from its sales of pencils and erasers.

Have students create additional sentences using the word as a noun.