Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was attempting to find out the other day why cinema is spelt with a 'c' and not a 'k', as its etymology would seem to require. While doing so I noticed that the word cinema was used long before it could have had the current meaning, because cinema hadn't been invented. See here:-

enter image description here

Looking for definitions in the online dictionaries turned up the current meaning, variously dated C19, 1895-1900 or 1909, and no other meaning.

So what did cinema mean in the earlier 19th Century, and briefly around 1705?

share|improve this question
2  
Looking at the 1705 to 1710 books, 2 are unavailable (so possibly could have cinema in them) and the other two don't have the word cinema in them. I think the early peak in the ngram is a mistake. –  Matt Эллен Apr 24 '13 at 11:54
2  
If you search within the single book representing the 1705 result, cinema doesn't appear. It's probably an OCR error or an indexing issue: Google Books isn't 100% reliable. Note too that the height of the spike is relative: there are fewer books to search, so a single result yields a greater percentage. By 1900, there are millions of books and the number containing cinema represents a smaller percentage. (You probably knew that, but it's worth saying) –  Andrew Leach Apr 24 '13 at 11:54
2  
Searching before 1800 usually produces artefactual result like this. 1800 is a good cutoff date becauſe long S diſappeared about that time, and all S's became recognizable by OCR, inſtead of being detected as F's everywhere except at the ends of words. –  John Lawler Apr 24 '13 at 13:06
1  
I just checked through a print copy of the OED and it had no entry for Cinema but it did say this "Cinematic, -al, var of Kinematic -al, 1883 Athenium 3 Mar 281/3 Kinematics, or as it used to be called, cinematics, the name having been translated from the French cinematique, is the geometry of motion" so I guess (guess) that pre-cinema, the term referred to a field of math if it existed. –  Dan Apr 24 '13 at 13:44
1  
In physics course, you may have a unit on kinematics. Which studies and describes motion, I guess. The opposite would be statics, where you study or describe things not in motion, or where the motion is irrelevant. –  GEdgar Apr 24 '13 at 18:38
show 2 more comments

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My guess would be an early version of kinematics, before the spelling settled down; see Etymology of 'kinematics'. (That only began around 1840, but as others have said, pre-19th century Google Books results are unreliable: all those steam-driven computers.)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.