Algae - Etymology and Study

Etymology and Study

The singular alga is the Latin word for a particular seaweed and retains that meaning in English. The etymology is obscure. Although some speculate that it is related to Latin algēre, "be cold", there is no known reason to associate seaweed with temperature. A more likely source is alliga, "binding, entwining."

The Ancient Greek word for seaweed was φῦκος (fūkos or phykos), which could mean either the seaweed (probably red algae) or a red dye derived from it. The Latinization, fūcus, meant primarily the cosmetic rouge. The etymology is uncertain, but a strong candidate has long been some word related to the Biblical פוך (pūk), "paint" (if not that word itself), a cosmetic eye-shadow used by the ancient Egyptians and other inhabitants of the eastern Mediterranean. It could be any color: black, red, green, blue.

Accordingly the modern study of marine and freshwater algae is called either phycology or algology, depending on whether the Greek or Latin root is used. The name Fucus appears in a number of taxa.

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