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3rd Grade

One part of something when its divided into two equal parts.


Possibly from Indo-European skel-, minus the s, with k becoming h, and with f added at the end. See What's in a word?

Images of a half



What's in a word?

By contrast to the essentially two ways of saying zero, the languages listed for zero use nine or ten[1] different ways of saying 'half.'

The English word half may (but, may not!) be related to the Indo-European root skel-, 'to cut.' If it is, then the s disappeared into oblivion (but not in the presumed relatives, see below), the k sound became h (a common transformation, see eight), and the f (sometimes p in the relatives) appeared out of the blue. The result is a wide variety of descendents with meanings having to do with something having been cut, split, or chiseled off, including these: scalp, scale, shell, shield, skill (incisiveness!), shelf (a 'split piece of wood'), sculpture, scalpel, and cutlass.

Half is also denoted by Latin-derived semi- and Greek-derived hemi- (for other examples of Latin and Greek switching s for h see six and seven). In words derived from these roots, the meaning of the hemi- or semi- always retains the sense of 'half': hemisphere, semicolon.

Semester may feel related, but it is not. Its meaning is really 'six months': se 'six', + mes which gives us month and measure.)

French-derived demi- (as in demitasse) is also unrelated, not a variant of hemi- and semi-, but yet another idea combining dis, 'broken apart' with mid, 'being in the middle.' Descendents of demi- include medium, median, mathematical mean, middle, midpoint, intermediate, and Mediterranean.