Lincoln vs. Darwin in the OED

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On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, let’s stop to ponder their contributions to the English lexicon. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Darwin is credited with the first known English use of 144 different words, including creationist, phylogeny, archaeopteryx, alfalfa, and rodeo. And his birthday-mate Lincoln? Only one: Michigander.

Read more about it in my Word Routes column on the Visual Thesaurus.

[Update: Since there were some inquiries in the comments, I’ve appended the full list of words for which the OED gives Darwin as the first cited author. One of them turned out to be a false positive, so the list is down to 143.]

geologize, v.     1831  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 18
poll, n. 5  1831 C.  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 18
flushing, n.     1832  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 24
mataco, n.     1833 C.  Darwin Zool. Notes (2000) 179 Four
shore-going, a.     1833  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 24
tucutucu     1833  Darwin Jrnl. Beagle iii. (1845) 50-
protrudable, adj.     1834 C.  Darwin Zool. Notes (2000) 1 Mar. 19
rodeo     1834  Darwin Jrnl. 16 Aug. in Voy. Beagle
madrina, n.     1835 C.  Darwin Diary 18 Mar. (1933) 288 The
hybridity     1837  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) II. 8
carpincho     1839  Darwin Jrnl. iii. 57 These great Ro
carrancha     1839  Darwin Jrnl. iii. 64 Polyborus Braz
nereidous, adj.     1839 C.  Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin Na
ombú, n.     1839 C.  Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin Na
outskirting, adj.     1839 C.  Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin Na
peludo, n.     1839 C.  Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin Na
percolating, adj.     1839 C.  Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin Na
pure-bred, adj. and n.     1839 C.  Darwin Let. in Corr. (1986) II. 446
tapaculo     1839  Darwin Voy. Nat. xiv. 329 It is cal
teru-tero     1839  Darwin Voy. Nat. vi. (1873) 114 The
turco     1839  Darwin Voy. Nat. xii. (1873) 270 Th
corallian, a.     1842  Darwin Coral Reefs (1874) 217 The s
saxigenous, a.     1842  Darwin Coral Reefs iv. 1. 64 The sa
unclearly, adv.     1844  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) II. 2
alerce     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xiv. (1879) 298 Mu
alfalfa     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xvi. (1873) 339 Th
algarroba     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xvi. (1873) 359 A
annelidous, a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. iv. (1879) 66 Some
balandra     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. vii. (1873) 134 A
citigrade, a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. viii. (1870) 160 A
crabbery     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. iv. (1879) 80 Grea
edental, a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. v. (1873) 82 Anoth
estanciero     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. viii. (1873) 149 A
fringing, ppl. a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xx. (1873) 465 The
intercalated, ppl. a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. v. (1879) 84 An in
niata, n.     1845 C.  Darwin Jrnl. (ed. 2) viii. 145 On t
nonplusser, n.     1845 C.  Darwin Corr. (1987) III. 177 The me
pampean, adj. (and n.)     1845 C.  Darwin Jrnl. (ed. 2) vii. 130 In th
stercovorous, a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xxi. (ed. 2) 490 n
subgroup     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xvii. 379 One spec
volute, a.     1845  Darwin Voy. Nat. xiii. 288 Another
uniclinal, a.     1846  Darwin Geol. Obs. S. Amer. vii. 197
experimentize, v.     1847  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 35
peloriated, adj.     1847 C.  Darwin Let. 12 June in Corr. (1988)
lovering, n.     1848 C.  Darwin Let. 22 May in Corr. (1988)
maxillated, adj.     1848 C.  Darwin Let. 22 Oct. in Corr. (1988)
fished, ppl. a. 1    1849  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) I. 36
fluidify, v.     1851-9  Darwin in Man. Sci. Enq. 283 Granit
ovigerm, n.     1851 C.  Darwin Monogr. Cirripedia I. 58 The
palagonite, n.     1851 C.  Darwin Corr. (1989) V. 70 Palagonit
probosciformed, adj.     1851 C.  Darwin Monogr. Cirripedia I. 176 Th
prosoma, n.     1853 C.  Darwin Let. 12 Feb. in Corr. (1989)
pycnogon, n.     1853 C.  Darwin Let. 10 Sept. in Corr. (1989
natural selection, n.     1857 C.  Darwin Lett. (1887) II. 123 There i
monotypic, adj.     1858 C.  Darwin Corr. 4 Mar. (1991) VII. 42
non-naturalist, adj. and n.     1858 C.  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) II. 1
archæopteryx     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. xi. (1878) 302 T
asclepiad 2    1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. xiv. (1878) 375
cock-nest     1859-78  Darwin Orig. Spec. viii. 234 The ma
coelospermous, a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. v. 146 The seeds
compositous, a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. v. (1878) 116.
correlated, ppl. a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. iv. 86 A large p
creationist     1859  Darwin Life & Lett. II. 233 What a
dichogamous, a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. iv. (1873) 78 Th
dimorphic, a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. ii. (1878) 36 Th
discommunity     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. (1888) II. xiv.
embryology     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. vii. (1873) 203
furcula     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. i. (1878) 16 Rel
Hipparion     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. vii. (1878) 201
hybridized, ppl. a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. ix. (1872) 249 H
interbreed, v.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. iii. (1872) 55 T
intercross, n.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. iv. 101 Both in
present-day, adj.     1859 C.  Darwin Origin of Species xiii. 429
sub-branch, n.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. iv. 124 In our d
substage     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. ix. 297 If the s
teleostean, a. and n.     1859  Darwin Orig. Species ix. 305 Some p
unincubated, ppl. a.     1859  Darwin Orig. Spec. vii. 217 Those f
pithecoid, adj. and n.     1860 C.  Darwin Let. 1 Nov. in More Lett. (1
vestigian, a. and n.     1860  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) II. 2
congenitally, adv.     1862  Darwin Fertil. Orchids i. 9 Pollini
dichogamy     1862  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) III.
electro, n. 1    1862 C.  Darwin Let. 20 June (1997) X. 263 M
Lythrum     1862  Darwin in Life & Lett. III. 301 You
budlet     a1864  Darwin (in Webster) To distinguish
monomorphic, adj.     1864 C.  Darwin Coll. Papers 16 June II. 125
trimorphic, a.     1866  Darwin Orig. Spec. iv. (ed. 4) 111
varietal, a. and n.     1866  Darwin Orig. Spec. (ed. 4) ii. 59 H
contabescent, a.     1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. under Domest. (1
half-lop     1868  Darwin Variat. Anim. & Pl. I. 107 W
henny, a. and n.     1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. I. 252 Males in
humpless, a.     1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. I. iii. 80 Blyth
hypermetropia     1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. xii. II. 8 Hyper
lop, n. 7    1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. I. iv. 107 When
lopping, vbl. n. 2    1868  Darwin Anim. & Pl. I. iv. 116 Even
microphthalmic, adj.     1868 C.  Darwin Variations Animals & Plants
pangenesis, n.     1868 C.  Darwin Variations Animals & Plants
pelorism, n.     1868 C.  Darwin Variations Animals & Plants
phylogeny, n.     1869 C.  Darwin Origin of Species (ed. 5) xi
Tacsonia     1869  Darwin Life & Lett. III. 279 The lo
deciduary, a.     1871  Darwin Desc. Man II. xiii. 80 The s
infolded, ppl. a.     1871  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1887) III.
lek, v.     1871  Darwin Desc. Man xiv. (1883) 405 As
nidifying, adj.     1871 C.  Darwin Descent of Man II. xv. 172 I
spirated, ppl. a.     1871  Darwin Desc. Man II. xvii. 246 The
syngnathous, a.     1871  Darwin Desc. Man I. vi. 210 The mal
adpress, v.     1872  Darwin Emotions iv. 100 Birds when
exophthalmus, -os     1872  Darwin Emotions vi. 162 Dr. Gunning
Lachesis     1872  Darwin Emotions iv. 109 In the Lach
molluscoidal, adj.     1872 C.  Darwin Origin of Species (ed. 6) xi
Squalodon     1872  Darwin Orig. Spec. (ed. 6) xi. 302
ceratodus     1874  Darwin Desc. Man (ed. 2) i. ii. 37
aggregating, vbl. n.     1875  Darwin Insectiv. Plants xv. 354 The
drosophyllum     1875 C.  Darwin Insectivorous Plants xv. 335
foliar, a.     1875  Darwin Insectiv. Pl. xv. 358 In inn
peptogene, n.     1875 C.  Darwin Insectivorous Plants vi. 129
cleistogenous, a.     1876  Darwin Cross-fertil. i. 3 Plants ca
cross-fertilize, v.     1876  Darwin Cross-Fertil. i, The flowers
heterostyled, a.     1876  Darwin in Life & Lett. (1892) 311 T
andro-dioecious, a.     1877 C.  Darwin Different Forms Flowers i. 1
autogamy     1877  Darwin More Letters (1903) II. 413,
Compsognathus     1878  Darwin Orig. Spec. xi. (ed. 6) 302
apheliotropic, a.     1880  Darwin Movem. Plants 552 The sub-ae
apheliotropically, adv.     1880  Darwin Movem. Plants 567 The tip, w
apheliotropism     1880  Darwin Movem. Plants 5 It is much m
apogeotropic, a.     1880  Darwin Movem. Plants 189 When they
apogeotropically, adv.     1880 F.  Darwin in Nature No. 582. 179 There
apogeotropism     1880  Darwin Movem. Plants 5 Apogeotropis
circumnutate, v.     1880  Darwin Movem. Pl. 1 If we observe a
circumnutation     1880  Darwin Movem. Pl. 1 This movement h
diageotropic, a.     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 189 The rhizomes
diageotropism     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 5 Diageotropism,
diaheliotropic, a.     1880 F.  Darwin in Nature No. 582. 179 A dia
diaheliotropism     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 5 Diaheliotropism
epicotyl     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 5 The stem immedi
epinastic, a.     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 262, So young tha
epinasty     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 5 The term epinas
hypocotyl     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. 5 With seedlings,
nutate, v.     1880 C.  Darwin & F. Darwin Movement Plants
nyctitropic, adj.     1880 C.  Darwin & F. Darwin Movement Plants
nyctitropism, n.     1880 C.  Darwin & F. Darwin Movement Plants
paraheliotropic, adj.     1880 C.  Darwin & F. Darwin Movements & Habi
subpetiole     1880 C. & F.  Darwin Movem. Pl. xii. 558 Each pet
paraheliotropism, n.     1881 C.  Darwin in Nature 3 Mar. 409/1 This



18 Comments

  1. Mossy said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    Is there any truth to the assertion that Gary Wills makes in Lincoln at Gettysburg that “Up to the Civil War, the ‘United States’ was invariably a plural noun: ‘The United States are a free government.’ After Gettysburg, it became a singular: ‘The United States is a free government.'” ??

    [(myl) In a word, “no”. There was a change, but it was more gradual. Wills is not the only one to assert this, however. Ben Zimmer wrote at some length about this issue here. ]

  2. Lazar said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    @Mossy: There’s been at least one Language Log post on that issue; it appears to have been much more gradual than Wils and others claim.

  3. Mossy said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 10:39 am

    Sorry; I’ll have to paw through the archives. It sounded lovely, but I could never figure out how such a change could be nearly instant and universal.
    Thanks

  4. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 11:09 am

    Mossy: Here’s a post of mine on the topic from 2005: “Life in these, uh, this United States.”

  5. Mike Keesey said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    Archaeopteryx was named by Meyer in 1861, unless I’m missing something.

  6. Mossy said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

    Great — thanks!

  7. Karen said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

    Mike Keesey: The linked article says “He was also the first to write in English about the archaeopteryx, a fossil find that helped bolster his evolutionary theories. (The paleontologist Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer is credited with introducing the Greek-derived term archaeopteryx first in German.)”

  8. Nigel Greenwood said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

    First of all, I’m greatly indebted to BZ for bringing up a lexicographical topic today. Purely by chance, there happened also to be a letter in today’s Guardian (aka Grauniad) IT supplement pointing out that the OED can be accessed online by any holder of a UK public library ticket. This indeed turned out to be the case (at least in my enlightened borough, Haringey, as it is in most, but not all, London boroughs). I shall now be able to indulge my nwordiness (the W is silent) to my heart’s content.

    The first fruit of my new-found reference tool was to discover that, while Charles Darwin may have been the first to use the verb nutate in a botanical sense (in 1880), it was his grandfather Erasmus who first applied the noun nutation to botany — almost 100 years earlier, in the momentous year 1789.

  9. Andrew said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    The linked article says that “since Lincoln’s time, Michigan natives have embraced ‘Michigander’ as a self-effacing term.” My personal sense, as a most-of-my-life Michigan resident, is that this is the primary term used by a majority of people who call the state home, and that the principal alternative, ‘Michiganian,’ is less-used and more “marked” to most people. I believe ‘Michigander’ is used today without a self-effacing connotation, but just as one would say ‘Iowan’ or ‘Oregonian,’ without a second thought.

    (And for what it’s worth, Firefox’s spell checker has just flagged ‘Michiganian’ but not ‘Michigander.’)

  10. Nathan Myers said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

    My favorite of his neologisms is “iridescent“. Darwin’s, I mean.

  11. Kim said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

    Aha! Michigander *IS* a word! I used it once to refer to a person from Michigan and was promptly corrected. I probably won’t reuse it given the reaction, but I feel vindicated :)

  12. Jesse Tseng said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

    Mike Keesey brings up a valid point, though, I think. Words like archaeopteryx and rodeo are hardly examples of Darwin as a “linguistic innovator”. In fact, in those cases he deliberately chose not to innovate. I don’t know how many of Benjamin Zimmer’s list of 144 words fall into this category. Of course he still gets credit for introducing all of them to the English-reading audience, so high fives for Darwin! I just don’t want Lincoln to get too depressed when he reads the column.

  13. Forrest said,

    February 12, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    I don’t think Darwin was aware of archaeopteryx, let alone coined the term. He was bothered by the prediction of his theory, that transitional forms would be found in the fossil record. Archaeopteryx was a transitional fossil, discovered two years after Origin was published, but, from everything I’ve read, Darwin was sadly, ironically unaware of this vindication his entire life.

    [(myl) The OED sez:

    1859 DARWIN Orig. Spec. xi. (1878) 302 The wide interval between birds and reptiles..partially bridged over..by the ostrich and extinct Archeopteryx.

    This seems transparently contrary to your opinion — I’m inclined to believe the OED in this case, though the citation is not clear as which date we should believe, and the 1859 date is not believable, since the first A. fossils were discovered in 1860-1863. The online version of the 1866 edition of Origin of Species certainly does Archeopteryx, in any event, and so I think we can dismiss your view that “Darwin was sadly, ironically unaware of this vindication his entire life”. ]

    The wonderful Canadian outdoors gear company, Arc’teryx, takes its name from archaeopteryx, speaking of coined terms.

  14. Nigel Greenwood said,

    February 13, 2009 @ 6:15 am

    Re algarroba. I’m not convinced that Darwin was being such an innovator in using this word. From the quotation in the OED (“A few algarroba trees, a kind of mimosa”) it sounds as if he simply hadn’t made the (etymological) connection with the already well-established term carob.

  15. James Wimberley said,

    February 13, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

    Algarrobo (masculine) is simply the standard Spanish name, from Arabic.

  16. Nigel Greenwood said,

    February 14, 2009 @ 5:53 am

    @ James Wimberley: Yes, but the fruit is feminine (algarroba), & it’s not hard to imagine a local informant referring to the fruit rather than the tree.

  17. David Marjanović said,

    March 5, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    Sorry for being so late.

    The linked article says “He was also the first to write in English about the archaeopteryx, a fossil find that helped bolster his evolutionary theories.

    But there is no such thing as “the archaeopteryx”. Archaeopteryx is a proper name (and the italics have been part of the correct spelling for many decades now).

    (The paleontologist Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer is credited with introducing the Greek-derived term archaeopteryx first in German.)”

    No, von Meyer coined the name from Greek parts. He didn’t do so “in German”, even though his article was in German. Archaeopteryx isn’t part of a language, it’s an internationally fixed disembodied spelling!

    1859 DARWIN Orig. Spec. xi. (1878) 302 The wide interval between birds and reptiles..partially bridged over..by the ostrich and extinct Archeopteryx.

    See that “1878” in there? That’s when the sixth edition was published. The name is, of course, absent from the first (1859) edition, having only been published in 1861.

  18. David Marjanović said,

    March 5, 2009 @ 9:31 am

    International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1999): International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 4th edition, International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature (London).

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