I was just looking up dinosaur in the AHD when my eye was caught by a photo of a graceful protozoan, Ceratium sp., illustrating the dinoflagellate entry. “Dinoflagellate?” I thought. “What’s so scary about that little creature?” I looked at the etymology, and it turns out the dino- isn’t from Greek δεινός ‘terrifying,’ as in dinosaur, but from δῖνος ‘whirling,’ which pleased me (though I had to then correct the Wikipedia article, which had given an incorrect etymology).


  1. Does this mean that dinosaurs weren’t really whirling lizards?

  2. I’m afraid it does.

  3. michael farris says

    “I’m afraid it does.”
    I may never forgive you for this.

  4. David Marjanović says

    Hahaaah! I already knew this! I’m good!!! 🙂
    On the other hand, there are quite terrible dinoflagellates. Red tides/killer algae are dinoflagellates.
    Which brings us to the fact the term “protozoan” is just as useless as (the much less commonly used) “protophyte” when applied to dinoflagellates. They are very distantly related to animals and plants alike.

  5. David Marjanović says

    Oh, and the “sp.” part, which is short for “[I’m actually supposed to tell you more than just a genus name, but I don’t know and/or care which] species”, does not go in italics. 🙂

  6. D’oh! I knew that, but I stupidly copied it from the dictionary caption, itals and all. Corrected, and thanks!

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