The Vocabularist: How we use the word cyber


The prefix “cyber-” is now a handy way of denoting words to do with the internet – from cybercrime, cyberbullying and cybersecurity to improbable activities such as cybersnogging. It followed an eventful path to reach its modern meaning,

In ancient Greek kubernao meant “steer a ship” and kubernetes was a steersman. Homer tells how the gods smote Odysseus’s ship, so that the toppling mast crushed the steersman’s head (kuberneteo kephalen).

The normal Latin transliteration of kubernetes gives us “cybernetes” – though practical seafaring Romans worried less about the rules and turned kubernao into guberno, from which we get “govern”.

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