The other day as my daughter and I were watching her pre-cal lesson, the presenter (talking about the velocity of falling objects) said, “Now, in the second second, the object will be moving at…”

Xoe looked over at me and said, “Why is it called that, anyway? Why is second the word for a measure of time?”

Being the word nerd that I am, I immediately jotted it down and looked it up as soon as the lesson was over, to see why these two very different words–one and ordinal number (first, second, third) and one a measure of time–were the same.

Sometimes things like this come from different roots or very different meanings of the same root, but in this case, the relationship is very deliberate!

Second comes from the Latin secondus, meaning “following, next in time or order.”

Well, that explains the ordinal number…but what about the measure of time? Well, as it turns out, it’s because it’s “the second division of an hour into a sixtieth.” The minute is the first division (originally called the “prime minute”), and the second is the second minute (as in, small part…come back next week for a closer look at minute)!

I had no idea. So simple, but…I had no idea, LOL.

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