Sometimes it’s not all Greek

I found a Webster’s New World dictionary while I was wandering around the back hallways of the newspaper last night. I flipped it open randomly and found a word, cestus, that had two very different entries, one with Latin and Greek origins and one with just Latin.

In the first entry, cestus is defined as “in ancient times, a woman’s belt or girdle.” The OED adds that such belts were “particularly that worn by a bride.” It comes from the Latin word cestus, which is derived from the Greek word kestos, meaning “girdle.” This could have been a kestos:

//flickr.com/photos/bluefootedbooby/400480183.
Silver and gold Greek belt from vlasta2's Flickr photostream.

In the second entry, cestus is defined as “a contrivance of leather straps, sometimes weighted with metal, worn on the hand by boxers in ancient Rome.” That comes from the Latin noun caestus, which is derived from the Latin verb caedere, meaning “to strike, beat.”

This is a caestus. When the definition says “weighted with metal” it means that they often had iron bands or studs across the knuckles:

//flickr.com/photos/wherearethejoneses/1052349652.
Caestus from where are the joneses' Flickr photostream.

So, there you have it. Cestus, a woman’s belt or a brutal boxing glove.

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