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Classical Home School Lesson: Latin and Botany

Titvs Classics delivers the Latin word of the week along with questions to engage with your kids on how the word is used, what it means, and how it influences our English Language today. Sign up for our Newsletter today!

Folium – Leaf

This week’s word of the week is Folium. Folium is singular, masculine, nominative and second declension. It means “leaf” .

Latin and Botany

Botany is the study of plants. The word comes from the Greek word “Botanê” meaning herb, weed, plant.

The ancients weren’t too concerned with the classification of plants, they mainly focused on the medicinal effects of plants vs their characteristics.

We’ve established that Latin, being the language of formal education in sixteenth century Europe, was used to create new English words for scientific discovery. When the study of plants became especially popular, Latin was used on large scale to come up with terminology to describe what was being observed and discovered.

A man by the name of Carl Linnaeus is primarily responsible for our naming system – the binomial system of classification (two-name).

This system starts with a broad generic name called the Genus (Latin for birth, kind, class) and the a specific name, the Species (Latin for appearance, special nature).

The Genus will always begin with a capital letter, and the species will be lower case.

For example, Peony – My favorite flower. the Genus is Paeonia (P.) and the species is officinalis or P. officinalis. The flower is named after the mythical Greek healer Paeon who used the flower for medical purposes. the species name comes from the Latin word opificina ( a place where a product was made) and primarily used in the middle ages to describe store rooms or herbs or pharmacies.This word is used to describe many species that have a medical use.

The full Latin naming system is internationally recognized and gives us a common language to refer plants – not unlike medical terms.

In geometry, the Folium of Descartes is an algebraic curve defined by the equation. On a graph, the curve makes the shape of a leaf. It was discovered in 1638 by Renee Descartes (“I think, therefore I am”).

When we hear exfoliate – we may think about skin care. But exfoliation is the loss of leave from a plant. Below are a few more words that from from Folium. Can you think of anymore?

English Derivatives

  • Foliage: Noun. Meaning: plant leaves collectively
  • Foliaceous: Adjective. Meaning: of or resembling a leaf
  • Foliar: Adjective. Meaning: relating to leaves
  • Folio: Noun. Meaning: an individual leaf of paper or parchment
  • Exfoliant: Noun. Meaning: a cosmetic product designed to remove dead cells on surface of the skin.
  • Exfoliate: Verb. Meaning: cause a surface to shed material in scales or layers
  • Folate: Noun. Meaning: a salt or ester of folic acid

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