Hex Words

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Most of the English words that begin with hex are scientific terms used by mathematicians, chemists, and medical practitioners. A few, however, are encountered in general use.

As a combining form in English, hex- means six.

In geometry, a hexagon is a plane figure having six sides and six angles. The adjective is hexagonal. The adverb is hexagonally.

In geometry, a hexahedron is a solid figure having six faces, especially the “regular hexahedron” or cube. You will encounter the word if you do origami.

The element pod means foot. A hexapod is an animal that has six feet. Insects–which have three pairs of legs–are classed in the subphylum Hexapoda.

In geometry, a hexagram is a figure of six lines. The figure can take more than one form, but the most familiar is that of two intersecting equilateral triangles as seen in the Star of David. Its use as an identifying symbol of Judaism began in the Middle Ages, but its religious usage began much earlier. The symbol, under various names, appears in the imagery of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Rastafarianism, Theosophy, and Freemasonry. Known as “Solomon’s Seal,” the symbol is used in magic and witchcraft. In the symbolism of heraldry, the hexagram is called “a mullet of six points.” The Chinese “Book of Changes” (I-Ching) is based on 64 hexagrams that are not interlocked triangles. They are figures of six parallel (whole or divided) lines.

In computing and mathematics, a system of numerical notation that employs 16 rather than 10 as the base is called hexadecimal.

Two hex words outside the mathematical realm are:

A hexarchy is a loose confederation of six states or kingdoms, each governed by its own ruler.

A line of verse made up of six metrical feet is called a hexameter. The hexameter was the standard epic meter in classical Greek and Latin literature.

Finally, there’s the witching word hex, which has nothing to do with six.

The verb hex, “to practice witchcraft,” came into American English from Pennsylvania German settlers.

German hexen, “to hex,” is related to the German word Hexe, “witch.” The English word hag derives from the same source. The earliest English form, haegtesse, was the equivalent of “woman of prophetic and oracular powers.” Does it surprise anyone that the word eventually dwindled into “ugly, bad-tempered, malicious old woman”?

As a noun, a hex is a magical spell or curse.

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12 thoughts on “Hex Words”

  1. Don’t forget the colorfully delightful and renowned Penn Dutch Hex Signs that dot the Pennsylvania landscape!

  2. I believe that the prefix “hex” for “six” comes from the Greek, but I will leave it up to you, Maeve, to figure out which ones of these (or their equivalents) are from Greek or Latin:

    quadra = four (quadralateral and quadrupalets)
    penta = five (pentagon and pentathalon)
    hepta = seven (heptagon and heptathalon)
    octa = eight (octagon)
    nona = nine (nonagon)
    deka = ten (decagon and decathalon)
    triska = thirteen

    My guess is that the ones that start with “qu”, such as “quad” and “quint” are probably Latin in origin.

  3. A dodecahedron is a three-dimensional body with twelve flat faces.

    The regular dodecahedron is a Platonic solid with twelve flat faces that are all regular pentagons of the same size.
    All five of the Platonic solids have congruent faces that are either triangles, squares, or pentagons, because it is impossible to make one out of hexagons. There are five Platonic solids because there are three different ways to make one out of equilateral triangles.


  4. Yes, hexa is Greek while the Latin 6 revolves around sexa. Likewise Greek hepta and Latin septi. Deca is Greek and Greek for 13 is actually triskaideca (3 and 10). Eleven and 12 are hendeca (1 and 10) and dodeca (2 and 10). Quadra for 4 (3 4s in a row) and nona for 9 are Latin. Greek 4 is tetra and 9 is ennea, which you don’t see much. There was the Egyptian Ennead, a group of 9 gods. Enneagram and enneagon are ok, but not often used it seems.

  5. Thanks, DAW. I was trying to expand on things that are brought up in the article, but I didn’t want to take up too much real estate and overpower this board with mindless ramblings and conspicuous fact spewing. So I stopped with Latin 10 and Greek 13. You know, filling in some holes in the original article.

  6. Oh, and importantly! It is a HEXaGON. But its shape is hexAGonal. Like diAGonal. Compare COMP’rable, and ilLuStrative. and irREP’rable, yada yada.

  7. Of course, people “who don’t know what a dodecahedron are” have two choices: 1) Learn about one; 2) Skip the subject.

  8. Let’s be clear, I am no Maeve! Not by a long shot. I think her work here in both quality and quantity is awesome (literally– literally). LOL.

    People “who don’t know what a dodecahedron are” have AT LEAST 2 problems. One, a lack of command of basic grammar which says either “A dodecahedron IS” or “dodecahedronS ARE”– no mixing and matching. And two, probably something about dodecahedrons and what it are.

  9. Venqax, you have a big problem in not understanding that a statement placed in quotation marks is often meant to be a figurative one. For example, back in the 1970s “You put a crook in the White House” had a special meaning concerning people who voted for Richard Nixon.

    Also, when someone addresses a question to Maeve, but then you butt in and answer it, you are claiming to be “Maeve.”
    You are having more and more trouble with figurative language, and that can be a medical problem. Get help!

  10. @DAW: What does being in quotation marks have to do with bad grammar? (Hint: the answer is nothing). If you were actually quoting someone who said that, you should have used [sic]. What, exactly, would, “who don’t know what a dodecahedron are” mean “figuratively” speaking? Please be literal.

    No, answering a question is not pretending to be Maeve. That is what this whole board is about. Discussion. If you have a special double-secret question just for Maeve, then email her. When everything you say has your moniker in bold type right above it, you can’t really be pretending to be someone else, except to people who have strong perceptual and inferential problems. Strong problems. You do get MEGA points for irony, though.

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