Asian Journal of Physics Vol 32, Nos 3 & 4 (2023) 137-142

On the etymology of the word iris: from the name of a God to the eye

Sergio Barbero
Institute of Optics (CSIC), C/Serrano 121, Madrid, Spain
Dedicated to honor of Prof Jay M Enoch

The word iris comes from the ancient Greek [Ἶριν – Iris]. First, it was the name of the messenger God in the Illiad of Homer embodying the rainbow. Later, with the transit of the myth to the logos in the birth of Presocratic philosophy, the meaning turned into a meteorological phenomenon. Afterward, a crucial step occurred at some time around the 1st-2ndcentury CE when Rufus of Ephesus, probably for the first time, used the word with meaning in eye anatomy. Both meaning transitions were bounded to metaphorical thinking. This article reviews the long history of how the word iris evolved along this fascinating route. © Anita Publications. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Iris, The etymology of anatomic terms, History of ancient optics, Meteorological phenomenon.

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