Wednesday, August 13, 2008

universe - etymology

1589, "the whole world, cosmos," from O.Fr. univers (12c.), from L. universum "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. universus "all together," lit. "turned into one," from unus "one" (see one) + versus, pp. of vertere "to turn" (see versus). Properly a loan-translation of Gk. to holon "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. holos "whole" (see safe (adj.)).

The question I have is: why understand versus as past participle (pp.) of vertere instead of understanding it as the Latin (L.) noun versus which means line or verse. After all "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1) is a single verse (universe) which describes the universe. I wonder how much hard data people have to determine etymology and how much is just conjecture?

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