ae·​py·​or·​nis ˌē-pē-ˈȯr-nəs How to pronounce aepyornis (audio)

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, genus name, borrowed from Greek aipýs "high, steep, sheer" (probably of substratal origin) + órnis "bird" — more at erne

Note: Genus name coined by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l'Académie des Sciences, Paris, t. 32 (janvier-juin, 1851), Séance du lundi 27 janvier 1851, "Note sur des ossements et des œufs trouvés à Madagascar, dans des allumions modernes, et provenant d'un Oiseau gigantesque," pp. 101-07. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire renders Greek aipýs as "haut, grand" and the genus name as alta ou magna avis ("tall or big bird"), though aipýs in Ancient Greek is used of things high in an elemental sense such as rocky cliffs or the sky. Greek aipýs has no Indo-European congeners; the intra-Greek comparisons (e.g., aîpsa "straightaway, at once"; exaíphnēs "all of a sudden"; áphnō "unawares"; áphar "speedily, at once") are strongly indicative of a substratal word (alternation of p/ph, i bled from a palatalized consonant).

First Known Use

1851, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aepyornis was in 1851

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Cite this Entry

“Aepyornis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

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