Where does the word “electric” come from and What does electric mean in Latin?

We may sometimes think that the word electric and its derivatives are of recent coinage, perhaps no older than Ben Franklin’s experiments with his kite and lightning, but they are much older.

They were in use three hundred years ago.

Probably as far back as the seventh century B.C., it had been known by the Greeks that amber, after being rubbed, acquired the property of attracting extremely light substances, such as the dried pith of reeds.

The Greek name for amber was electron (Latin electrum). Hence, in 1600, when the English physicist, William Gilbert, published, in Latin, his researches on magnetism which were based upon experiments with amber, it was natural that he should use the Latinized word electricus.

Through his own later lectures in English this he translated as electric, and the agency through which magnetism was effected he named electricity.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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