Today’s morning name, a little exercise in etymology. From NOAD:

ORIGIN early 20th century: modern Latin, from Greek ana- ‘again’ + phulaxis ‘guarding’.

From Michael Quinion’s Affixes site on ana:

Variously up, back, or again.

Greek ana, up, back, again, anew. [a little puzzle in historical semantics: what unites the physical-movement ‘up’ sense and the ‘back, again, anew’ family of senses?

Some common words show the variety of senses of the Greek original: an anagram, a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another, comes from Greek ana‑ in the sense of ‘anew’, plus gramma, a letter; anatomy, the study of bodily structure, is literally ‘cutting up’ (from tomia, a cutting) because dissection is an essential part of that study; an anachronism, a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, comes from ana‑ in the sense of ‘backwards’, plus khronos, time.

Most words containing this form are technical terms in the arts and sciences. Some examples are anabolic (Greek ballein, to throw), of the metabolic synthesis of molecules in living organisms; anadromous (Greek dromos, running), of a fish, such as the salmon, that migrates up rivers from the sea to spawn; anode (Greek hodos, way), the positively charged electrode by which the electrons leave an electrical device; anaphylactic (Greek phulaxis, guarding), of an extreme allergic reaction, for example to a bee sting.

More specifically on anaphylaxis, from NOAD:

noun anaphylaxisMedicine an acute allergic reaction to an antigen (e.g. a bee sting) to which the body has become hypersensitive.

The image here is that the body is guarding itself once more (‘again’) against a substance, but is doing so over-zealously. The resultant anaphylactic shock is life-threatening, and terrifying. I once had the experience of dealing with a friend who went into anaphylactic shock when they were stung by a wasp during a walk in a local forest park (they had had no such previous experience, but insect bites are a common trigger for anaphylactic shock).

I have no food allergies that could trigger anaphylaxis (though some foods, like peanuts, are famous for doing so), but I have several drug allergies that could. My experience with these drugs so far has been that they merely cause a measles-like rash (apparently called Red Man’s Rash in nurse-talk), but I have been warned to never take these drugs, because the rash reaction could morph into anaphylaxis at any time. (The emergency treatment for anaphylaxis is an injection of adrenalin(e) / epinephrin(e). The effect is quite startling.)

Other initial ana. Of course, the ana– at the beginning of some English words isn’t a separate formative of the language at all, but just part of some (originally) borrowed word. For instance: anaconda, ultimately from a Sinhalese word meaning ‘whip snake’.

Still other occurrences of ana- at the beginning of an English word consist of the variant an– of a negative prefix a– (also from Greek) plus an a that begins the stem to which it is attached, as in (from NOAD):

noun anacoluthon: a sentence or construction in which the expected grammatical sequence is absent, for example while in the garden, the door banged shut. ORIGIN early 18th century: via late Latin from Greek anakouthon, from an– ‘not’ + akolouthos ‘following’.

(Yes, the definition is not at all helpful; just focus here on the etymology.)

From Quinion on this negative prefix:

a-1, before a vowel an-.

Not or without (Greek a‑).

In more or less disguised form, this occurs in a number of words brought over from Greek, such as abyss (Greek bussos, depth); anomalous (Greek homalos, even); and anarchy (Greek arkhos, chief or ruler).

A variety of scientific and medical terms contain it, such as anaesthetic (US anesthetic) (Greek aisthēsis, sensation) [note the an– variant], something that prevents one feeling pain; amorphous (Greek morphē, form), without a clearly defined shape; and anorexia (Greek orexis, appetite) [note the an– variant], a medical condition in which there is a lack of appetite. Some have been created using native English stems; apolitical, not interested or involved in politics; atypical, not representative of a type or class.


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