Comma, Period, Colon and Hyphen
comma: a piece which is cut off. In rhetoric, comma originally meant ‘part of a sentence’ or ‘short phrase’, and later acquired the meaning of the punctuation mark we all know.
(from Greek komma, from koptein “to cut off,” from PIE root *kop– “to beat, strike”)
period: period means ‘recurring portion’ or ‘cycle’. The recurring portions of speech are sentences. Grammarians picked a dot to demarcate them. Thus, with time, the meaning of ‘period’ shifted from ‘complete sentence’ to ‘dot’.
(from Latin periodus, from from Greek periodos “cycle, circuit, period of time,” literally “a going around,” from peri– “around” + hodos “a going, way, journey”)
colon: originally ‘limb’ or ‘member’, colon figuratively described ‘a clause’ or ‘part of a sentence’. Just like ‘comma’ and ‘period’ the original meaning shifted to the punctuation mark.
(from Greek kolon, with a long initial -o- (ω) “part of a verse” and literally “limb, member”)
hyphen: there was a time when people did not use spaces to separate words. Before inventing the ‘space’, Latin scripts used the hyphen (literally ‘under one’ or ‘together’) to clarify meaning and show that two parts belonged to the same word. Today, we use hyphens to show that two syllables or words belong to the same word or concept.
(from Late Latin hyphen, from Greek hyphen meaning “together, in one,” literally “under one,” from hypo “under” + hen, neuter of heis “one.”
Posted September 20, 2014
Filed Under: Blog