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What is the etymology of dropped -n in ancient (Greek masculine) names ending with -on? I mean Plato, Pluto, etc.

Curiously, the "n" is still preserved in derived words, like platonic or plutonic.

Another observation that may be related is that some non-Greek ancient names seemed to acquire -n in languages other than English, e.g., Cato becoming Caton.

  • Where is this coming from? how did you get that peculiar idea?(out of my range) – Argot Jan 16 '14 at 18:15
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    I do not see anything peculiar about it, this was just an observation. English is not my first (or second) language, and the other languages I know do not miss the -n. Probably, they acquired Greek names directly, not via Latin as English did. – Andris Birkmanis Jan 16 '14 at 18:16
  • So you are a linguist? – Argot Jan 16 '14 at 18:19
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Because Latin.

When the Ancient Greek names Πλάτων, Πλούτων and others were borrowed into Latin, they were changed into Plato, Pluto. I don't know if there's a single, well-known reason for this, but Latin had a lot of existing third-declension nouns ending in -o, -onis, and these Greek names were easiest to slot into this paradigm. These names then entered English by way of Latin, where they keep the peculiarity of losing the final -n except in derived forms.

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    It is possibly relevant that there are very few words in Latin ending in -n. (Almost all of those few are neuter nouns in -men). – Colin Fine Jan 16 '14 at 18:20
  • I wonder if it means the derived forms entered English from some other languages that kept the -n. Or were they just formed by analogy with other derived words (such as "laconic"). – Andris Birkmanis Jan 16 '14 at 18:37
  • Pluto was already Roman. The Greek underworld god is Hades. – Oldcat Jan 16 '14 at 18:52
  • @Oldcat, good point :). In my eagerness I forgot this. – JSBձոգչ Jan 16 '14 at 19:26
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    @Oldcat Pluto is a latinization of the Greek Πλούτων (pronounced Ploo-ton), which was a common epithet of Hades. In later years, Plouton came to refer to the god exclusively, with Hades referring to the Underworld instead. – Guybrush Threepwood Jul 25 '14 at 20:50

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