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Original meaning of 'malum'

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Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby TonyLoco23 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:32 pm

The word "malum, mali" has two principle meanings:

1) evil, bad

2) apple, fruit, apple tree

Does the association of 'malum' with evil have anything to do with the role of the apple in the story of Adam and Eve? If so, which was the original meaning of the word in pre-Chrsitian times? Did it mean 'apple' or 'evil'?

Or is it simply a coincidence that the word has these two meanings?
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby furrykef » Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:58 pm

They're actually two words: "malum" (with no long vowel) meaning "evil" and "mālum" (with a long "a") meaning "apple".

The Romans probably had little to no contact with the Hebrews when the words "malum" and "mālum" were formed -- the words certainly predate the birth of Christ (and therefore Christianity), and Judaism wasn't exactly popular in Rome. (Judaism did exist in ancient Rome, but perhaps not back when the Romans first started to write, since there's no direct influence of the Hebrew script in Latin writing. I would think that the Romans would have started writing sooner in a Hebrew-based script if Jews were already there.)

However, it's possible that it did play a role in associating the fruit of the tree with apples specifically. The actual story only refers to it as "fruit". (I like to jokingly propose that it was actually a kumquat.) But the Vulgate Bible does describe the "lignum scientiae boni et mali", in which case a pun on "apple" does seem apparent, even though it was just an amusing accident of translation.
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby thesaurus » Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:58 am

"Malum" is one of those words that is always waiting to trick you, considering that "malus, -i" means the mast of a ship. So technically "malum" could be three completely different things...
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby Kasper » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:57 am

It probably comes down to it that a ship's mast that is growing apples is no good...
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby Craig_Thomas » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:17 am

Malo: I would rather be
Malo: In an apple tree
Malo: Than a naughty boy
Malo: In adversity
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby edonnelly » Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:58 pm

Reminds me of:

English Reduplication
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby Scribo » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:34 pm

Craig_Thomas wrote:Malo: I would rather be
Malo: In an apple tree
Malo: Than a naughty boy
Malo: In adversity


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Re: Original meaning of 'malum'

Postby woodwose » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:15 pm

Beware also of mala, -ae, f. meaning "cheek, cheek-bone, or jaws."
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