Earlier on today, we tweeted this:
A PENCIL was originally a paintbrush.And we thought you might like to know a bit more about it.
— HaggardHawks Words (@HaggardHawks) March 12, 2015
It’s easy to presume that pen and pencil are related words, but in fact they’re completely unconnected. Pen comes from the Latin word penna, meaning “feather”, making it an etymological cousin of words like pennant, empennage and even penne pasta. The earliest pens were quills—long birds’ feathers dipped in liquid ink—and it’s from there that the modern pen eventually evolved.
In turn, the Latin word penicillus is a diminutive of penis—no, honestly—which, besides the obvious, could also be used to mean “tail” in Latin. But how did a word meaning “little tail” also come to mean “paintbrush”? Well, picture a lion’s tail, with a soft tuft of hair at the end of it, and you can probably see the resemblance. Just make sure you’re picturing its tail.
|The world’s most dangerous paintbrush|