A Voyage Through Physics Technical Terms to Explore Their Roots of English Origin

Here are certain words,commonly used while teaching Physics. The same words have their literal meanings also. The undersigned author is a teacher of both Physics and English. He has listed some words which he used to come across while teaching both the subjects. They may have certain common applications. Some words may be difficult for Physics, but may be of common use in Literature. Likewise, some words may be rare in Literature, but may be of common use in Physics. Hence a combined study in both the subjects for a common word is given so that knowledge in both the subjects may find improvement.

However, this is only a modest attempt. Number of words dealt with in each article is very few, compared to the vast ocean of English language. If the articles serve as a motivation for readers to improve the vocabulary, the purpose of the author will be considered fulfilled.

In this article, we are considering a few words starting with the alphabets D,E,F,and G.

1. Daughter Nuclei:

The general meaning of the simple word ‘daughter’ is known to all of us. But Physics has taken the scientific meaning of ‘ capacity to re-produce’. A nuclide which decays into smaller particles is known as parent and nuclides which are produced by radio- active decay are known as daughters. More interestingly, they are able to produce further nuclides, thus justifying the name ‘daughter’.

2. Dating Techniques:

Dating Technique is not the quality of only the lovers, but the phrase is also applied for nuclear particles which means the method of estimating the true age of rocks, palaeontological specimens, archaeological sites and so on.

3. Eccentricity::

The dictionary meaning of this word is ‘singularity of conduct’ or ‘oddness’. This aspect has been cleverly taken over by Physics, rather mathematical Physics, to represent the constant ratio of the distance of a point on the curve from the focus to its distance from its directrix, or in short, not having the same centre as another.

4. Echelon:.

Echelon means a stepwise arrangement of troops, ships, planes etc. It also means various grades among employees of an organisation. In Physics, it means a stepwise arrangement of a stake of glass plates in an interferometer.

5. Entropy:

Entropy is one of the most fascinating words of Physics which is pregnant with meanings. The undersigned author has written some articles on “What is Life?” based on theories of Entropy. During the course of preparation of the article, the author was very much interested to find out the root of the word ‘Entropy’. The scientific meaning of Entropy is ‘a measure of unavailable energy’, energy still existing but lost for the purpose of doing work. In fact it is a measure of disorder. The entropy of the Universe goes on increasing which means that the disorder of the Universe tends to infinity.

The origin of this word is a combination of ‘en’ which means inward and ‘trope’ which is ‘turning’, thus entropy means transformation of energy inwards.

Thus it can be seen, Physics gives also an opportunity to learn the phonetics of English words.

6. Enthalpy:

Enthalpy is another scientific word meaning the total heat content of a system derived from the word ‘enthalpien’ which means ‘to heat’ or to warm up.

7. Ephemeris:

Ephemeral means a thing which exists only for a day. In Physics, it means a tabulation of position of stars and planets on daily basis.

8. Equinox

Nox means night. Equinox means either of the two instances at which the centre of Sun appears to cross the celestial equator. It will happen on March 21 and September 23 when day and night are equally divided.

9. Erg:

We know that an Erg is a unit of work or energy used in C.G.S system. The origin is from Greek where erg means ‘work’.

10. Eutectic mixtures:

Low melting point alloys are known as eutectic mixtures. The origin is from a combination of ‘eu’ which means well and ‘take in’.

11. Exponential:

A function that varies as the power of another quantity. It originated from Latin words, ex and ponere meaning out to place. Also exponens and entis which mean setting forth. The term exponential has originated from this word which means a function that varies as the power of another quantity. In day-to-day life, it applies to the population growth.

12. Galaxy:

Galaxy is a well-known word meaning a vast collection of stars, sometimes great celebrities etc. Any ‘Gala’ collection is mentioned as ‘Galaxy’. This word is a combination of two words Gala and ‘lacteous’, (or,aktos, in Greek) the later word meaning ‘Milk”. It may be noted that our galaxy is mentioned as Milky way.

13. Galvanometer:

All of us know that a galvanometer is an instrument for measuring electric currents. But some of us may not know it is named after its discoverer Luigi Galvani of Bologna.

The name of the instrument is so common that we do not find the origin in text books..

14. Gibbous.

Gibbous means a hump or hunch. It is unequally convex on two sides In Astronomy

it refers to the phase of the moon between half and full, which is in the form of a hunch back.

15. Grating:

In Optics, Grating or a diffraction grating is a device for producing spectra which consists of a glass or a speculum-metal sheet with a very large number of equidistant

lines drawn on it. The dictionary meaning is a grid or a cage The instrument has derived its name from the work it is doing.

16. Gravitation (gravity):

This is one of the most important words in Physics. It refers to the attractive force between any two masses. The is from the Latin word`Gravis or Gravitas which means ‘heavy’. It may be a matter of interest to note that ‘grave’ situation means a serious situation which causes ‘heaviness’ of heart or feelings.

Greek Alphabets:

The readers are advised to go through various Greek alphabets (like Alpha, Beta etc which are the direct derivations of English alphabets and may know the significance of each alphabet. Another group of words are mathematical prefixes like Milli, micro, nano, pyco, giga etc.

The purpose of this article is to motivate the readers to analyse and understand the significance of Technical words along with literal significance. It may be noted that only such words which are common to both usages have been explained.

I sincerely hope that the article will be of great help to readers in improving their knowledge of both Physics and English. Depending on the response of the readers, we may read more on the subject.