Demystifying Math Vocabulary: Understanding the Origins

Math vocabulary can be difficult for many students to learn. Terms such as “variable”, “exponent”, and “conjugate” make learning math daunting — the word alone impedes progress! However, it doesn’t need to be intimidating; math becomes more approachable when you understand where these words come from and what they mean in practice. In this post, we’ll explore the origins of each key mathematical term and how they relate to our everyday lives.

Differentiate Between Math Types and Branches

Mathematics is a diverse field that encompasses various types and branches. It’s an intricate subject that deals with numbers, shapes, and quantities. Math types refer to how numbers and symbols can be used in mathematical expressions. For example, arithmetic involves using numbers to solve problems, while algebra uses letters and symbols to represent unknown quantities. On the other hand, branches of mathematics refer to the various subfields, such as geometry, topology, and statistics. Understanding the differences between math types and branches is crucial to comprehend mathematical concepts properly. Doing so can unlock the universe’s secrets and apply mathematics to solving real-world problems.

Uncover the Roots of Ancient Greek Math Terms

The Greek civilisation is renowned for its literature, philosophy, and mathematics innovations. As we delve deeper into the origins of Greek mathematics, we find that many of their mathematical terms are deeply rooted in the language they spoke. One such example is the word ‘geometry’, derived from the Greek words’ geo’ meaning earth and ‘”metering,” meaning to measure. Similarly, their word for circle, ‘kyklos’, is derived from the word ‘kyklos’, meaning wheel. By examining the roots of these terms, we gain a deeper understanding of the language and culture of the Greeks, but also how they approached and studied mathematics.

Trace the Latin Contribution to Modern Math Vocabulary

Latin may seem dead, but its impact on modern math vocabulary is alive. Even if you do not realise it, you probably use Latin-derived words whenever you discuss mathematics.

For instance, terms like “decimal,” “fraction,” and “quadrant” all have roots in Latin. Even the word “mathematics” itself comes from Latin. So, the next time you crunch numbers or solve equations, take a moment to appreciate the Latin contribution to the vocabulary that makes it all possible.

Explore the Medieval Persian Legacy on Modern Mathematics

The Medieval Persian Empire was a centre of innovation and advancement, and their contributions to modern mathematics are remarkable. To this day, their complex algorithms have served as the foundation for some of the most important mathematical theories around. 

From the development of algebra to trigonometry, the Persians were ahead of their time in terms of mathematical advancement, and their influence continues to be felt in the modern day. 

The combination of ingenuity, precision, and intellectual rigour that defined the work of Persian mathematicians has left an enduring legacy that continues to inspire students and scholars worldwide.

Discover How Middle English Changed Math Terminology

Middle English may seem like an arcane subject at first glance, but its influence on language is still felt today, including in mathematics. 

Before the rise of Middle English, math terminology was mainly borrowed from Latin and Greek. However, as the language spread throughout England, certain words and phrases began to be Anglicised, including those used in mathematical concepts. 

For example, the word “zero” comes from the Middle English “zephyr,” which itself was derived from the Arabic word “sir.” This shift in terminology not only made math more accessible to the average English speaker but also highlighted the evolving linguistic landscape of the time. Middle English may have fallen out of use over time, but its impact on the English language continues to be felt in numerous ways.

Investigate the Role of Other Languages in Developing Math Vocabulary

Mathematics is a language in its own right, an essential tool that transcends communication barriers, connects cultures and societies, and advances human knowledge. But did you know that other languages also play a crucial role in shaping and enriching math vocabulary? Why not learn math prefixes and suffixes?

From Arabic and Sanskrit to Greek and Latin, numerous languages contributed words, symbols, and concepts that shaped the modern discipline of mathematics.

For instance, the word “algorithm” comes from the name of the Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, who developed a system of arithmetic that became the foundation of algebra. Likewise, the Greek word “geometry” means “earth measurement,” reflecting the ancient Greeks’ emphasis on measuring and mapping celestial and terrestrial bodies.

To truly appreciate mathematics’s global scope and diversity, one needs to explore its linguistic roots and discover the fascinating stories behind them.


Mathematics has a rich history that includes terms from various languages. Exploring this history can deepen understanding and appreciation for the impact of different languages on their development, making it invaluable for students and mathematicians.