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IE okw- eye

The English 'eye' has its arisen from the Indo-European root okw-


A few years ago, Govinda had sung these laudatory lines for Raveena Tandon in a Hindi movie:

Akhyion se goli maare, ladki kamaal dekhi!

Meet the cousins of those killer eyes from other languages:



okw- w4+ord

















The Greek word ophthalmos also means ‘eye.’ The second element of the word comes from thalamus, ‘chamber,’ giving the whole a sense of ‘eye and eye socket.’

An ‘ophthalmologist’ is a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye (-logia means ‘study’). He is qualified to perform eye surgery.

Then, there is the ‘optometrist’ who is professionally trained and licensed to examine the eyes for visual defects- like myopiahypermetropia and glaucoma- and prescribe corrective lenses (Gk. opto-, sight + Gk. metron, measure). Unlike an ophthalmologist, an optometrist is not a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and cannot administer drugs or perform surgery.

The patient takes the optometrist’s prescription to an ‘optician’ who is a specialist in fitting eyeglasses and making lenses to correct vision problems.

The term ‘oculist’ means an eye-care professional and is therefore used for both the ophthalmologists and optometrists.

‘Inoculation’ initially meant ‘making a small eye in’ the stem of a plant and inserting the bud of another plant in it. The bud was sealed from drying and was bound in place. Slowly, the tissues of the bud would fuse with those of the stem, and deriving nourishment from the host plant, the bud would grow into shoots. This method of asexual plant propagation is known as grafting. Now, the term ‘inoculation’is also used for an analogous process in microbiology—the introduction of a small amount of a microorganism either in a growth medium, or in a living organism (to stimulate the organism’s immunesystem).

The word ‘autopsy’, meaning ‘to see by one’s own eyes’ (Gk. auto-, self), was first used in 1651, in the sense of ‘a critical examination of something.’ Within 30 years, however, it was being used exclusively for the critical examination of a dead body to establish the cause and circumstances of death. The other names for this procedure are necropsy, thanatopsy, necrotomy and postmortem (Gk. nekros, corpse; Gk. thanatos, death; Gk. -tomy , to cut; L. mortem,from mors, death).


Monocle, binocular, synopsisogle and inveigle too are from okw-.



IE spek-  to observe

The Sanskrit word spasht means ‘clear, easily observed’ and spashtikaran is a clarification (making clear). The one who observes secretly is called spash in Sanskrit and ‘spy’ in English.


The ‘spectacles’ are called so because they help one see and a sight worth seeing is a ‘spectacle’ (note that our words drish and nazaara too are derived from sight-related words, drishti and nazarrespectively). The observer of the spectacle is its ‘spectator’ (just like the observer of the drish is its darshak).

The ‘perspective’ of a man is his ‘point of view’, his ‘dekhne ka dhang’ or nazariya (from nazar).

More words from this family are presented below:






A ‘telescope’ helps you observe far-off things (G. tele-, distant). The word ‘horoscope’ is a compound of Greek hōrā, hour and skopos, observer. Look carefully at the word skopos. It has the same consonants and the same meaning as our root spek-, but the order of the consonants is different. Should we include it in the family?

The answer is ‘yes.’ I do not know about you but as a child I used to be very confused about whether it was keechad or cheekad (it is keechad in Hindi and chikad in Punjabi), lifaafa or flaafa and ladki or lakdi. This rearrangement of consonants within a word is called metathesis. Quite a few of our slips of tongue are metathetical. 

Like, a girl called Nitika is fed up of people calling her Nikita. However, that is not going to change her name. 

Similarly, words do not change just because some people sometimes mispronounce them. It is rare that a meta-thetical form completely subdues the original word in common usage. It’s happened in Sanskrit with jihva, tongue, becoming jivha (what we commonly call jibbha). The spinning wheel is known as charkha. This word came from charka which is a metathetical form of chakra, wheel. Similarly, in Greek, the IE root spek- became skep-. Apart from telescopes and microscopes and kaleidoscopes and periscopes, this metathesized root has given us a name for skeptics.


Greek phainein to show, make visible

The occurrences that your eyes show you are called ‘phenomena’. And the ones shown by your mind are called ‘fantasies’. A distinct stage of development of something- the word ‘distinct’ here means ‘distinct by appearance’—is called a ‘phase’. An ‘emphasis’ on a word makes it visible.



Laudatory: (adj) praising; (v) laud.

Origin: L laudare, to praise

  • The Prime Minister lauded the courage of the Indian Army.

Myopia: (n) short-sightedness. The distant objects appear blurred and indistinct.

Origin: Gk. myein, ‘to shut’ + ops, eye => ‘the condition in which one has to constrict his eyes to be able to see something.’


Hypermetropia: (n) long-sightedness. Also known as Hyperopia. One can clearly see over the distance, but the nearby objects appear blurred.

Origin: Gk. hyper-, over, beyond + ops, eye => ‘defective vision in which one can see beyond but not near.’


Monocle: (n) eye glass for one eye.

Origin: L mono, one + oculus, eye


Synopsis: (n) summary of the main points of an argument or a theory

Origin: Gk. syn-, together + opsis, to see => ‘to see all main points together’


Ogle: (v) to stare at someone flirtatiously or with eyes full of sexual love or desire.

Origin: Dutch oog, eye -> oogen, to make eyes at, a derivative of oog, eye.

  • To escape from a life of purposelessness, the retired old men gather at the park, play chess, indulge in vulgar jokes and sometimes ogle young lovers sitting in a hidden corner.
  • Standing on the first floor of the shopping mall, Rohan and Rohit were ogling the girls below. “Look at that one in red,” Rohan said enthusiastically, “girlfriend material, isn’t she?” Rohit was still telling him why he disagreed when Rohan’s attention veered to another ‘hot chick.’

Inveigle: (v) to get something from another person or make him agree to something by gently urging, caressing, or flattering him.

Origin: L ab-, away from + oculus => ‘without eyes, blind’ -> Fr avogle, blind -> Fr enveogler, to make blind => ‘to blind a person’s judgment and lead him into doing something that he or she would not otherwise have done’

  • Lakshmi’s boyfriend inveigled her into running away with him and after living with her for a month, sold her to a house of prostitution.

Introspect: (v) to look within; (n): introspection

Origin: L intro-, inside + specere, to look at

  • “I don’t need anyone! Get out! Leave me alone!” She had shouted at her sister and later, her mother, and pushed them out of her room and closed it from inside. Then, she had cried. Her friends, her family, everybody whom she called her own, failed to understand her, failed to say what she wanted to hear. She was alone in this whole world! Thinking these sad thoughts, she fell asleep. When she woke up, it was still dark outside. Sleep had calmed her mind. She went over her bad behaviour of the previous day and felt regret. “The frustration is within me, and I take it out on them. That’s not fair! How can they know what is wrong with me when I don’t know myself?” she thought. She decided to skip the college that day and just sit in her room, with a pen and paper, and write down all the thoughts that came to her mind. She hoped this introspection would finally reveal to her the reason for her restlessness. Was she still in love with Kabir? Or was it something else that was troubling her so much?

Retrospect: (n) a look at the past; (v) to look back in time.

Origin: L retro, back + specere, to look

  • She was much distressed by not being able to get into IITs at the time. However, in retrospect, she realized that was the best thing to have happened to her.
  • The world population reached the five billion mark on 11 July, 1987. The United Nations decided retrospectively in 1989 to observe that day each year as the World Population Day in order to focus everybody’s attention on the problem of growing population.

Circumspect: (adj) careful, paying attention to the situation and the possible outcomes.

Origin: L circum-, around + specere, to look => ‘to look around’ => ‘exercising caution’

  • It was the first time that Jaya had brought Sunil before her parents. “Oh ma, you’ll make him nervous,” Jaya laughed when she saw her mother study him with faint suspicion. “It’s a mother’s duty darling. I want the best for you,” the old lady smiled. Throughout the evening, she continued to observe Sunil with motherly circumspection, taking note of each thing that he said or did or did not. After he had gone, she told Jaya that she did not like him. “He is not as simple as he shows. I want you to be careful.” Jaya, however, was too much in love to be circumspect. “Ma, you are thinking too much. Good night,” she said and tossed her mother’s caution out of her mind.

Spectre: (n) ghost

Origin: L specere, to see => ‘a strange appearance’

  • The spectre of the slain king haunted his murderer night and day.

Spectrum: (n) band of different waves arranged according to their wavelength; a range of values.

Origin: L specere, to see => ‘a band of seven colors that is seen when invisible light passes through a prism’

Spectral: (adj) form of both spectre and spectrum.

Spectral analysis is the analysis of a spectrum of waves.

  • “I had told him not to stay in that haunted house. But my brother didn’t listen. The specters there killed him!” The young woman sobbed before the police inspector. The man shook his head. “Madam, you would surely agree with me that a spectral murderer would not leave material fingerprints. No, this is the work of a man, or a woman.” The girl’s face blanched. How had they found fingerprints?
    She had made it a point to wear gloves.

Speculate: (v) to think about something, to try to guess.

Origin: L specere, to look => specula, watch tower => speculari, to watch over => ‘to try to guess danger’ => ‘to try to guess’ => ‘to think’

  • The Ramayana dates back to 1500 bc according to certain early scholars. Recent studies have brought it down to 4th century bc But all dates in this regard can only be speculative.
  • The whole nation speculated how long the Bollywood star Trisha Oberoi’s relationship with her businessman boyfriend would last.

Specious: (adj) that which looks good but actually is not; that which looks possible but has a false basis.

Origin: L specere, to look => ‘that which is pleasing to look at’

  • She got leave of absence for the afternoon on some specious excuse.

Despise: (v) to look down upon; to find digusting, distasteful or contemptible. Such a disgusting, distasteful or contemptible person is called dispicable.

Origin: L de-, down + specere, to look at

  • When asked what they despise, the stock answer for most people is ‘hypocrites.’ At no. 2 comes ‘liars.’
  • Most people say that hypocrisy is despicable. Yet, most people are hypocrites.

Conspicuous: (adj) easily seen.

Origin: L com- + specere, to see

  • One of his front teeth was conspicuously filled with gold.
  • He had a charm of manner and of conversation which made him conspicuous in any gathering.

Perspicuous: (adj) clear, easy to understand; (n): perspicuity.

Origin: L per-, through + specere, to see => ‘see-through’ => ‘clear’

  • R.K. Narayan’s writing is remarkable for its perspicuity. One can understand him so easily that we feel that we are reading not in English but in our mother tongue.

Perspicacious: (adj) having insight; wise.

Origin: L per-, through + specere, to see => ‘one who can see through’ => ‘one who has insight’

  • Jaya’s mother was perspicacious. She was the only one who could see through Sunil’s charm. No one paid any attention to her words then. Jaya and Sunil got married. It was only then, that Jaya slowly started discovering the dark underside of her husband.
  • All the relatives became very impressed by his political perspicacity when the election results turned out to be exactly as he predicted.

Auspicious: (adj) bringing good luck.

Origin: L avis, bird + specere, to look at => ‘to look at birds and their flight to get knowledge of the future.’ Romans believed that sighting certain birds before setting out to work was lucky, and sighting some others was unlucky. They also believed that the direction you saw the bird coming from, the number of birds you saw, the direction they went into, etc. were all signs that foretold future events. An example of a similar belief among Indians is that a crow crowing on one’s rooftop in the morning is believed to foretell the arrival of a guest.

  • Gifting the idol of Goddess Lakshmi is considered auspicious, bringing prosperity and goodwill to the receiver.
  • Did you ever wonder why Lord Mountbatten chose the midnight of 14 August, 1947 to hand over power to the Constituent Assembly of India? Could he not have waited till the next morning? There were two reasons. First, some Indian leaders said August 15, a Friday, was inauspicious. Second, he did not want that the Tricolour should be hoisted immediately after the Union Jack was lowered. Under the flag code, flags are lowered in the evening and hoisted in the morning. Thus, the Union Jack was lowered on August 14 evening across India, and the Tricolour hoisted on August 15 morning.

Espionage: (n) the act of spying.

Origin: Gk spahen, to look out

  • Espionage agents are usually called secret agents or spies.
  • Research Analysis Wing (RAW) is the main espionage agency of India.

Respite: (n) temporary relief.

Origin: L re-, back + specere, to look => ‘looking back’ => ‘a short pause which walking’ => ‘a short rest’

  • The sudden rain in the evening provided a welcome respite to the people cooked black by the intense heat.
  • The people got no respite from power cuts even in the monsoons.

Metathesis: (n) an interchange of two sounds or two letters of a word.

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