One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An ancient ship, perhaps with either eight rowers to each oar or with four rowers to each oar and two banks of oars.
Early 18th century; earliest use found in Robert Hooke (1635–1703), natural philosopher. From Hellenistic Greek ὀκτήρης kind of ancient ship, use as noun (short for ὀκτήρης ναῦς) of ὀκτήρης having eight rowers from ancient Greek ὀκτα- + -ήρης from the Indo-European base of row (also seen in ancient Greek ἐρέτης oarsman).
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