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Gift from the Gods.

Dear Editor:

Why are museums called by that name? Is it because we muse about the things we see there?


Union City, New Jersey

While the verb muse might appear to have a connection to museum, it is the noun muse that plays a role in the history of the word. The origin of museum goes back to nine sister goddesses worshipped by the ancient Greeks, each of whom was called a Mousa. In English we now refer to them as the Muses. The Greeks believed that each Muse was the goddess of a particular art or science. A place that was dedicated to these goddesses--and to the arts and sciences for which they stood--was called a Mouseion. The Greeks' Mouseion became Museum in Latin, from which it was borrowed into English about 300 years ago.

The verb muse has nothing to do with the Muses. It comes from an early French word meaning "the mouth of an animal," possibly referring to a sniffing dog considering a scent.

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Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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