Dandelions and Medallions

By Maeve Maddox

Reader Richard Walker wonders if the -lion endings in words like dandelion and medallion have anything to do with lions.

Yes, where dandelion is concerned; no, for medallion.

The English word dandelion comes from French dent-de-lion, “lion’s tooth.” This name derives from the toothed leaves of the plant. Modern French speakers call the dandelion pissenlit, “pee in the bed.” Middle English speakers called it the piss-a-bed. Herbalists know that the dandelion has diuretic qualities.

Medallion, on the other hand, comes from Italian medaglione, “large medal.” The word medal comes ultimately from Latin metallum, “metal.”

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