Etymology of 'Asymptote'Date: 05/13/2002 at 16:03:18 From: Lindsey Dobson Subject: Asymptote Can you tell me the history of the name 'asymptote'? Date: 05/14/2002 at 13:36:38 From: Doctor Sarah Subject: Re: Asymptote Hi Lindsey - thanks for writing to Dr. Math. From the book _The Words of Mathematics, An Etymological Dictionary of Mathematical Terms Used in English_ (Mathematical Association of America), by Steven Schwartzman: asymptote (noun), asymptotic (adjective), asymptotically (adverb): from three Greek words. The particle an-, shortened to a- before a consonant, means "not." The native English cognate is un-, as seen in unhappy and unloved. The Greek preposition sun or sum "together with" is from the Indo-European root ksum "with." The Greek verb piptein means "to fall." The IndoEuropean root pet- "to rush or fly forward" (and hence to fall) can be seen in Latin-derived impetuous, Greek-derived helicopter, and native English feather. An asymptote is a curve - most often a straight line - that another curve "doesn't fall together with." In other words, the second curve "runs alongside" its asymptote, getting closer to it but never hitting it... - Doctor Sarah, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ |
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