Monday, July 7, 2008

Define: Twin

twin [noun], definition
1 a
: either of two offspring produced at a birth : gemini
2: one of two persons or things closely related to or resembling each other
: a compound crystal composed of two adjoining crystals or parts of crystals of the same kind that share a common plane of atoms

twin [adj], etymology
O.E. [Old English] twinn "consisting of two, twofold, double," probably ultimately from P.Gmc. [Proto-Germanic] *twinjaz (cf. O.N. tvinnr, O.Dan. tvinling, Du. tweeling, Ger. zwillung), from PIE [Proto-Indo-European] *dwisno- (cf. L. bini "two each," Lith. dvynu "twins"), from "double," from base *dwi-*dwo- "two" (see two). The verb meaning "to combine two things closely" is recorded from c.1394. The noun developed from O.E. getwinn "double."

I just love words. I read linguistics books. For fun. Anyway, "twin" is a very interesting word in English. Its Germanic ties are pretty easily distinguishable, but if you check out the abbreviations guide on, it will explain that Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European are hypothetical languages. Some words, we know eactly where they came from. Considering twins have been around pretty much forever (think about Romulus and Remus who are considered to be the founders of Rome, plus myths from almost every culture), it makes sense that the roots of the words that mean "twin" in various forms and languages have been lost to history.

"Twin" is also very interesting in Spanish. Apparently, "gemelo/a" is used for monozygotic twins, while "mellizo/a" is for dizygotic twins. As my understanding of Spanish is basic, I am not sure the origins of the two terms. "Mellizo/a" is for fraternals, which leads nicely into "trillizo/a" meaning "triplet." Since triplets and other high order multiples are most often fraternal, it makes sense that these words follow a pattern. Gosh, I love it when language makes sense.

To check out the two different words for "twin" in Spanish, visit and then confirm (en espanol, and yes, there should be a tilde over the "n" but I don't know how to do special character in Blogger and I am tired) by checking out

Hasta luego,
Baby B

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