International scientific vocabulary (ISV) comprises scientific and specialized words whose language of origin may or may not be certain, but which are in current use in several modern languages (that is, translingually). The name "international scientific vocabulary" was first used by Philip Gove in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961). As noted by Crystal, science is an especially productive field for new coinages.
According to Webster's Third, "some ISV words (like haploid) have been created by taking a word with a rather general and simple meaning from one of the languages of antiquity, usually Latin and Greek, and conferring upon it a very specific and complicated meaning for the purposes of modern scientific discourse." An ISV word is typically a classical compound or a derivative which "gets only its raw materials, so to speak, from antiquity." Its morphology may vary across languages.
The online version of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged (Merriam-Webster, 2002) adds that the ISV "consists of words or other linguistic forms current in two or more languages" that "differ from New Latin in being adapted to the structure of the individual languages in which they appear." In other words, ISV terms are often made with Greek, Latin, or other combining forms, but each language pronounces the resulting neo-lexemes within its own phonemic "comfort zone", and makes morphological connections using its normal morphological system. In this respect, ISV can be viewed as heavily borrowing loanwords from New Latin.
McArthur characterizes ISV words and morphemes as "translinguistic", explaining that they operate "in many languages that serve as mediums for education, culture, science, and technology." Besides European languages, such as Russian, Swedish, English, and Spanish, ISV lexical items also function in Japanese, Malay, Philippine languages, and other Asian languages. According to McArthur, no other set of words and morphemes is so international.
The ISV is one of the concepts behind the development and standardization of the constructed language called Interlingua. Scientific and medical terms in Interlingua are largely of Greco-Latin origin, but, like most Interlingua words, they appear in a wide range of languages. Interlingua's vocabulary is established using a group of control languages selected because they radiate words into, and absorb words from, a large number of other languages. A prototyping technique then selects the most recent common ancestor of each eligible Interlingua word or affix. The word or affix takes a contemporary form based on the control languages. This procedure is meant to give Interlingua the most generally international vocabulary possible.
This is a list of scientific words and word roots which have different meanings from those in the original languages.
|Word or root||Scientific meaning||Original language||Original word||Original meaning||Notes|
|andro-, -ander||stamen||Greek||ἄνδρ', ἄνδηρ||man||in flowers of flowering plants|
|gynaec-, -gyne||carpel||Greek||γῠναικ-, γυνή||woman|
|electro-||electricity||Greek||ἤλεκτρον||amber||via static electricity from rubbing amber|
|toxo-||poison||Greek||τόξον||bow (weapon)||via 'poisoned arrow'. It means 'bow' in Toxodon and 'arc' in isotoxal.|
|In names of biological taxa|
|-ceras||ammonite||Greek||κέρας||horn||via resemblance to a ram's horn|
|-crinus||crinoid||Greek||κρίνος||lily||extracted from name "crinoid"|
|grapto-||graptolite||Greek||γραπτός||writing||via resemblance of fossil|
|-mimus||ornithomimid||Greek||μῖμος||mime||extracted from name Ornithomimus = 'bird mimic'|
|-mys||rodent||Greek||μῦς||mouse||including in Phoberomys|
|stegocephalian||Greek||στέγη||roof||via their cranium roofs as fossils|
|Quoted by ancient Greek authors as Egyptian words for 'crocodile'|
|therium||usually mammal||Greek||θηρίον||beast, animal|
|Names of bones|
|femur||thighbone||Latin||femur||thigh||Classical Latin genitive often feminis|
|fibula||(a leg bone)||Latin||fībula||brooch||tibia & fibula looked like a brooch and its pin|
|radius||(an arm bone)||Latin||radius||spoke|
|tibia||shinbone||Latin||tībia||flute||via animal tibias modified into flutes|
|ulna||(an arm bone)||Latin||ulna||elbow, cubit measure|
|foetus / fetus||unborn baby||Medical Latin||fētus||As decl 1/2 adjective, 'pregnant'.
As decl 4 noun, 'the young of animals'
This is a list of scientific words and word roots which have one meaning from Latin and another meaning from Greek.
|Word or root||Scientific meaning
|Example||Latin word||Latin meaning||Scientific meaning
|Example||Greek word||Greek meaning||Notes|
|crema-||burn||cremation||cremāre||to burn (tr.)||hang, be suspended||cremaster||κρεμάννυμι||I hang (tr.)|
This is a list of other scientific words and word roots which have two meanings.
|Word or root||Scientific meaning 1||Example||Origin||Original meaning||Scientific meaning 2||Example||Origin||Original meaning||Notes|
|uro-||tail||Uromastyx||Greek οὐρά||tail||urine||urology||Greek οὐρῶ||urine|
|mento-||the mind||mental||Latin mēns||the mind||(of the) chin||mentoplasty||Latin mentum||chin|
Another difference between scientific terms and classical Latin and Greek is that many compounded scientific terms do not elide the inflection vowel at the end of a root before another root or prefix that starts with a vowel, e.g. gastroenteritis; but elision happens in gastrectomy (not *gastroectomy).
The Greek word τέρας (τέρατο-) = "monster" is usually used to mean "monster (abnormal)" (e.g. teratology, teratogen), but some biological names use it to mean "monster (enormous)" (e.g. the extinct animals Teratornis (a condor with a 12-foot wingspan) and Terataspis (a trilobite 2 feet long)).
A feature affecting clarity in seeing a scientific word's components is haplology, i.e. removing one of two identical or similar syllables that meet at the junction point of a compound word. Examples are: