More day to dawn

Readers may recognize the title of today’s post from the poetic ending of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” What dawns in this column is more etymology: in particular, I’d like to continue with the previous post by looking at a few more words that begin with eo-, from Greek eos ‘dawn,’ a descendant of the Indo-European root *aus- ‘to shine.’ As noted last time, scientists have coined words that use eo- in the sense ‘very early, primitive.’

A raptor is ‘a person or animal that carries off another,’ so an eoraptor, which has been translated as ‘dawn plunderer,’ is the name given to ‘a certain type of very early dinosaur that lived about 230 million years ago, toward the end of the Triassic Period.’ Wikipedia articles describing eoraptor exist in Spanish and English.

Based on Greek lithos ‘stone,’ an eolito/eolith is ‘a stone from the dawn of time.’ Scholars who specialize in ancient history began using the term in the late 1800s to designate what they believed to be very crude artifacts made by early humans. A more recent view, however, is that such stone pieces were formed by natural rather than human processes. Wikipedia articles describing eoliths exist in Spanish and English.

In contrast to those two words, the scientific term eosina/eosin was given its name based on the colors of the sky at dawn. As the English-language Wikipedia article notes: “Eosin is a fluorescent red dye resulting from the action of bromine on fluorescein. It can be used to stain cytoplasm, collagen and muscle fibers for examination under the microscope. Structures that stain readily with eosin are termed eosinophilic.” There is also a Spanish-language Wikipedia article about eosina, and the Spanish equivalent of eosinophilic is eosinófilo.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim in IA
    Oct 04, 2015 @ 11:28:24

    “The sun is but a morning star.” I like that.

    You’ve ridden this horse a long way. Did you discuss eohippus before.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 04, 2015 @ 11:47:06

      Yes, I have ridden this horse a long way (and I like the way you put that, just as you like Thoreau’s ending to Walden).

      In contrast, Eohippus was a short way back, in the September 26th post.


  2. shoreacres
    Oct 05, 2015 @ 22:33:08

    Here’s a photo of the boat I most sailed. Her name was Morning Star, and it was that Thoreau quotation that led to the name. I had a little daysailer for a while that was named Dawn Treader: not for the C.S. Lewis story, but from a passage in Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night.”

    Have you ever seen the plant called Lithops? I have a friend who cultivates them; they’re the strangest thing in the world. They look like rocks, until they bloom. Sometimes, they sit around looking like rocks for a good, long time. I never had made the connection between their name and lithos.


    • shoreacres
      Oct 05, 2015 @ 23:06:06

      It just occurred to me that there’s another Dawn Treader in Austin. It’s a beautiful wooden boat. The fellow who owns it brings it down to the classic car and wooden boat show at Lakewood Yacht Club nearly every year. I didn’t realize how many Dawn Treaders are around until I started trying to find his.


      • Steve Schwartzman
        Oct 06, 2015 @ 08:21:18

        Dawn Treader is certainly a poetic name, so I can understand why it would be popular. From your link I see that someone else in Austin has a boat cleverly named Aweigh of Life.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 06, 2015 @ 08:17:37

      What a coincidence that you should have sailed a boat named after a phrase in Thoreau. I wonder if anyone ever named a boat “Life with Principle,” using the opposite of the preposition in the title of Thoreau’s famous essay.

      I wasn’t familiar with the plant you mentioned (I’ve now found an article at, but I recognized the Greek elements lith- ‘stone’ (as in lithography and megalith and lithium) and ops ‘eye,’ which came up recently.


  3. Frederick Jackson
    Oct 06, 2015 @ 17:32:41

    And as the I-E root of Deus, Zeus, Dios, is also “to shine” then are not eos and (d)eos almost one and the same?


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 06, 2015 @ 17:42:07

      It’s tempting, isn’t it? Nevertheless, the sources I’ve consulted attribute them to different Indo-European roots, aus- and dyeu-. Looking at offshoots of roots in branches of the family other than Italic, Greek, and Germanic can provide information that confirms or denies tentative connections.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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