Origin of the Word Pyramid
Date: 07/05/99 at 23:02:44 From: karen Subject: A pyramid versus the pyramids: which came first? I am wondering about a sort of chicken or the egg question. Were the pyramids (like those in Egypt) named after the geometric figure the pyramid or vice-versa?
Date: 07/06/99 at 08:26:09 From: Doctor Rick Subject: Re: A pyramid versus the pyramids: which came first? Hi, Karen. An old-fashioned paper Encyclopedia Brittanica is still good for something like this. I quote from the 1970 edition: "The ancient Egyptian term for pyramid is _mer_. The English word pyramid comes from the Greek _pyramid_, plural _pyramides_, a word of doubtful etymology that was thought to have been derived from the ancient Egyptian _per-em-us_, a term used in a mathematical papyrus to denote the vertical height of a pyramid. A purely Greek word _pyramis_ means "wheaten cake," and a vague resemblance in shape may have prompted early Greeks to use it as a facetious designation of the celebrated Egyptian monuments." So the origin of the term is not entirely clear (as is true of most such ancient words and concepts). Even so, it definitely appears that the Egyptian pyramids were the first to bear this name, and the geometric concept of a pyramid must have been named after these particular examples of a right square pyramid. - Doctor Rick, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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