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.

"Unicorn" comes from the French and late Latin, with the "cornus" part meaning "horn". I am wondering what other English words share this root. I could think of "rhinoceros". Can you think of something (or multiple somethings) else?

share|improve this question
Rhinoceros? Sure, it's the same PIE root, but from Greek rather than Latin. –  Peter Taylor Apr 7 '11 at 12:42

5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The Latin word for horn is cornu, stem cornu- (with null-inflection in the nominative case). Note that Latin cornus, "cornel/dogwood", comes from a different Proto-Indo-European root and is not related. Rhinoceros comes from Greek keras, horn.

Both Latin cornu and Greek keras come from the same PIE root *ker-, which meant something like "horn, head" (note that there appear to be other PIE roots *ker- that are not related).

The examples Snumpy and Trideceth gave all come from Latin cornu-. The following words come from the PIE root *ker- through Latin, but not from Latin cornu-:

  • cervix
  • cerebral
  • triceratops
  • rhinoceros

The word horn comes from the same PIE root, but not through Latin: the /k/ sound was lenited to /x/ or /h/ in Proto-Germanic, as Colin Fine said, which is why we have /h/ now, just as in other Germanic languages.

share|improve this answer
The most obvious seems to be "cornet". –  caxtontype Apr 7 '11 at 15:58
+1 for a very good answer. But a nitpick: /k/ did not "disappear" in Germanic (the way /p/ really did disappear in Celtic, for example) but was lenited to /x/ or /h/, just as /p/ was lenited to /f/. –  Colin Fine Apr 7 '11 at 16:19
@ColinFine: Ack, I knew someone would catch me! At first I had an even worse expression. Then I changed it to this, but I knew I should have looked up what happened exactly to the k, apart from the fact that it is now an h; I knew this was weak, but I was too lazy to look it up. I will incorporate your comment into my answer, if you don't mind. I figured "disappeared" might be taken as "it didn't exist after a certain time, when something else came instead of the k"; but I know that isn't the right way to say it. –  Cerberus Apr 7 '11 at 20:55

and, believe it or not, corn

share|improve this answer
Presumably you mean a corn on the foot but not as in grain. Different roots –  z7sg Ѫ Apr 7 '11 at 10:28

Previous answers listed cervix, cerebral, triceratops, rhinoceros, cornea, Capricorn, cornicen, corniform, cornucopia, corneous, corner, tricorn, corn (on the foot), and cornicle as being from the same PIE root. There are others, including hirn, keratin, kerato- and anything formed therefrom, cerebro- and anything formed therefrom, many (but not all) other corn- and -corn words, and, possibly, Cornelia. Unrelated are cerul- words, ceremony, karma (related to ceremony, though), hurl, and, as someone else has mentioned, corn (grain).

share|improve this answer
Strong +1 for mentioning that the PIE root is shared with cerebr(o)-! –  F'x Apr 7 '11 at 18:39


There are many medical terms as well, which I'll not bother mentioning.

share|improve this answer

bicorn and tricorn (as in 18th century hats)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


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.