Wednesday, December 19, 2012


something to do with logarithmic patterns, by a person who finds odd the anagrammatical relationship described below

On the Etymology of the words Algorithm and Logorithm:
via Aficionada

Since the two words are actually anagrams of one another, it is easy to assume they have similar derivations or etymologies. Not so – or, not entirely so.

Logarithm came into English from Greek by way of the Neo-Latin word logarithm(us). Greek log(os) meant word or speech and arithm(os) meant "number," as you can see in the word arithmetic. So, somewhere in the very distant past, a logorithm was a word that was used to express a number – or something like that.

Algorithm, on the other hand, was or is also known in English as algorism. It too had a pathway that led through Latin (Medieval Latin, in this case), but its starting point was Arabic, not Greek. It was actually the Latinized surname of the 9th-century Persian astronomer- mathematician Al-Kh(u)wahrizmi ; his name meant "the one from Khiva" (an area that is now in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; also the name of a city there). In 825 C.E. he wrote a treatise in Arabic "On Calculation with Hindu Numerals." When it was translated into Latin about 300 years later, his name was Latinized and included as part of the title (Algoritmi de numero Indorum) which presumably meant "by Al-Kh(u)wahrizmi, concerning the numbering system of the Indians." But, because of a quirk of the Latin language, it could also mean "Algorisms [whatever they may be] from the numbering system of the Indians." And so the word algorism was born, and became modified into algorithm by association with the Greek word arithm(os).

But maybe that change is not a bad thing, because algorism can also refer to the Arabic numerals themselves which we use in modern mathematics, and it can also refer to the method of computing with those numerals, plus zero (i.e. arithmetic). So it's really kind of nice to have a separate word that means what we now mean by algorithm. It's just that that word is not logarithm.

taken in full: "Etymology Sidebar"
Algorithms and Logarithms: a User's Guide
Aficionada, August 8, 2012

Programmed By Who
The Big Heap, Time and Network Configuration

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