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### History of Abscissa

```
Date: 03/26/2001 at 20:39:24
From: Eric Fogelfis
Subject: Coordinate

Hi!

I would like to know the word abscissa comes from.

Thank you very much.
```

```
Date: 03/27/2001 at 14:37:04
From: Doctor Schwa
Subject: Re: Coordinate

Hi Eric,

I found a related question and answer in the Dr. Math archives by
searching for "abscissa":

Terms of the Cartesian Coordinates
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/carpenter12.1.98.html

You can do that search yourself with our searcher at:

http://mathforum.org/mathgrepform.html

The link above (to "carpenter") has a nice paragraph in it about the
origins of "abscissa."

I also looked in the Oxford English Dictionary, and found that
"absciss" means "a line or distance cut off" (or in general, a piece
that's cut off).

The idea, then, was that to find the coordinates of a point, you would
start at the point (x,y) and draw a perpendicular to one of the axes.
The length of that perpendicular was called the "ordinate," and the
length of the piece of axis cut off was called the "absciss" or
"abscissa" or "abscisse."

In general, though, I don't see those words being used much these
days, except in first-year high school algebra books. People just say
"x-coordinate" or "first coordinate"...

I hope that helps.

- Doctor Schwa, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
High School Coordinate Plane Geometry
High School Definitions
High School Geometry
Middle School Definitions
Middle School Geometry

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