polonium / polonia / polony / polonaise

Polonium, element 84, was discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie. The pair named the element after Marie Curie’s native land of Poland;1 Polonia is a post-classical Latin name for that country.

The chemical symbol for polonium is Po.

Polonia appears in Latin texts c.1100, and in English it appears in John de Trevisa’s De Proprietatibus Rerum, written sometime before 1398:

Saxonia haþ boemia and Polonia in þe Eeste syde, westualia in þe weste.
(Saxony has Bohemia and Polonia on the east side, Westphalia in the west.)

The adjective Polony, meaning Polish, dates to 1610.2

The Latin word is also the source, via French, of polonaise, which makes its English appearance in 1740.3


1Oxford English Dictionary, polonium, 3rd Edition, September 2006, Oxford University Press, accessed 10 November 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50183032.

2Oxford English Dictionary, polony, adj. & n.1, 3rd Edition, March 2009, Oxford University Press, accessed 10 November 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50183033.

3Oxford English Dictionary, polonaise, n & adj, 3rd Edition, September 2009, Oxford University Press, accessed 10 November 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50183025

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