I was looking up a different word in my Oxford Russian-English dictionary when I happened to notice the phrase sonnaya arteriya, defined as ‘carotid artery.’ Now, sonnyy means ‘sleepy,’ so sonnaya arteriya literally means ‘sleepy artery,’ and this suggested that carotid (a word whose etymology I don’t think I’d ever investigated) had something to do with sleepiness. Sure enough, it turns out it’s “ad. Gr. καρωτίδ-ες, f. καρούν ‘to plunge into deep sleep, to stupefy’, because compression of these arteries is said to produce carus or stupor. (Galen.)” (OED). The AHD takes it back to Indo-European *ker- ‘head’ (“to feel heavy-headed”), but that may be pushing it. At any rate, I like the plain-spoken Russian phrase better than the opaque English one.


  1. Michael Farris says

    Anyone who watched professional wrestling as a child (in the 70’s) knew the carotid artery as the object of the fearsome ‘sleeper’ hold. I sort of suspect that it’s been left behind in recent decades though.

  2. Well, the German word is “Halsschlagader”. Descriptive as well, but no reference to putting someone (permanently) to sleep.

  3. Wasn’t this what Spock used?

  4. “Sonnaya” does not mean “sleepy” here. It means “pertaining to sleep”.

  5. OK, nevermind, sleepy has taht meaning, too…

  6. Folquerto says

    And continuous softly massaging the carotid artery makes the victim fall into the ultimate sleep, for it really does put people permanently to sleep, it stops the heart from beating, by giving through the massaging a conflicting command to the brain. If you are so unwise to mention this killer facility, do not be hypocritical about it. The method is used to kill that way for a specific reason: it leaves absolute no traces and the diagnosis is always heart failure.

Speak Your Mind