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Onager/Onagraceous

topic posted Thu, December 4, 2003 - 9:22 PM by  David
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So, I'm leafing through the dictionary as I sometimes do and I see this picture of a galloping ass. The caption tells me it is an onager and stands 4.5 feet tall at its shoulder.

I think, "Hm, that's a small ass."

The definition tells me the ass if indigenous to south western Asia.

Also, the second definition tells me that an onager is a specific type of medieval stone throwing siege engine.

There's no explanation as to how these two disparate items could have the same name.

and then... below that-

Onagraceous - belonging to the evening primrose family.

I feel a bit at sea. I've always loved how one word relates to another through their shared roots. This seems downright willy-nilly to me.

Can anyone shed some light?
posted by:
David
Chicago
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  • Re: Onager/Onagraceous

    Thu, December 4, 2003 - 9:53 PM
    If we look at the root for Onager we get: Wild ass, from Greek onagros, from onos ass + agros field

    Onager (the weapon_ was named after the wild donkey because it was well known for kicking stones at anyone hunting / persuing it.

    Onagraceous: relating to, or belonging to the Onagraceae, a family of flowering plants including fuchsia and willowherb.

    Where plant names are concerned... well etymology goes out the proverbial window. But I'll hazard a guess this particular animal eats a lot of them...

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