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I have always thought the word annulus to be exceptionally awkward. I'd like to know the relation between annulus and anus.

Geometrically, an annulus is a disk with a hole in it. The anal muscle ("sphincter") has an annular shape.

I'm wondering how we got from annulus to anus.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You have the derivation slightly backwards. The Latin anus meant ring and thus also the anatomical anus.

Meanwhile anulus was a Latin diminutive of anus, so a small ring

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Both anus and annulus comes from Latin, where anus meant "a ring," and annulus meant "a little ring." The Latin annulus is derived from the Latin word anus.

The origin of anus is 16th century, and the origin of annulus is Middle English.

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Can it be that one of our most fantasized- and obsessed-over orifices was not named until the 16th century? Just my quick reaction, but how can this make sense? –  Pete Wilson Mar 25 '11 at 18:28
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@Pete: Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changes_to_Old_English_vocabulary) lists the following obsolete English words for it: earsgang, setl, and ūtgang. –  Alex Mar 25 '11 at 21:09
    
@Alex - Fascinating, thanks! We can see that ūtgang is something like out-going; and the Wikipedia article relates the ears- of earsgang to arse. –  Pete Wilson Apr 24 '11 at 8:57
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Online Etymology Dictionary has it "from PIE base *ano- 'ring.'" Interesting.

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