Health Terms:
The Tail

Our health terms are filled with interesting Latin root words, including the Latin word penis. This third declension Latin noun originally meant tail. It is related to the verb pendere, which means to hang down.

By the time of Cicero, penis also had its anatomical meaning, but it was considered crude slang. Although it was a crude term in the first century BC, it has been carried over into English vocabulary as a highbrow anatomical term.

The Descriptive Power of Latin:

Today in science and medicine, the word penis is used to describe that part of the male anatomy which hangs down like a tail. Highly descriptive and very crude to the Romans, today’s usage of the word penis is strictly anatomical.

The Romans also had more delicate ways of referring to the male anatomy. They called it the membrum virile, or male limb. In later Latin it was also referred to politely as pudenda, which means shameful, i.e. private parts.

What’s the Latin meaning of testes?

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