Word origin: Muscle: Of mice and men

Word origin: MUSCLE Of mice and men

Take a look at your burly biceps. If you don’t have any burly biceps of your own, look at a friend’s. Do those rippling muscles look like a handful of little mice moving around under the skin? The Romans thought so. In Latin, the word muscle literally means “little mouse”. People saw a striking resemblance between a well-developed ab or delt and a colony of subdermal rodents.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Romans weren’t the only ones to notice this apparent similarity. People in the Arab world had the same idea independently and at around the same time. The Arabic word for field mouse is adal and the word for muscle, adalah.

You’ll never look at a shapely gastrocnemius in the same way again.


“A muscle is like a car. If you want it to run well early in the morning, you have to warm it up.”
Florence Griffith Joyner


Posted in Etymology