Wikipedia (correctly IMHO) defines hysteresis as
the dependence of the output of a system not only on its current input, but also on its history of past inputs. The dependence arises because the history affects the value of an internal state. To predict its future outputs, either its internal state or its history must be known.
But then gives the etymology as
derived from ὑστέρησις, an ancient Greek word meaning "deficiency" or "lagging behind". It was coined around 1890 by Sir James Alfred Ewing to describe the behaviour of magnetic materials.
The Online Etymology Dictionary agrees, giving
1805, from Greek hysteresis "a coming short, a deficiency."
But this doesn't jibe with the etymology of hysteria, hysterical, or hysterectomy, all of which are based on the Greek root meaning "uterus" or "womb". (See, for example:
- 'The words "hysterical" and "hysterectomy" share the same root in the word for "uterus".'
- 'from the Greek ὑστέρα hystera "uterus".'
- 'the term hysteria ... stems from the Greek cognate of uterus, ὑστέρα (hystera).'
- 'from Latin hystericus "of the womb," from Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb" (see uterus)
So what gives? I can conceive of at least two theories: (1) someone was embarrassed about the existence of bodily functions and so made up a bogus definition for ὑστέρησις, or (2) the ancient Greeks were so misogynistic that "having a womb" became idiomatic for "deficient."
What is the real etymology of the word hysteresis?