One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: a bust. Now: a representation of the foremost or upper part of an animal (or occasionally a human) used to decorate a piece of sculpture, pottery, etc.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in William Stukeley (1687–1765), antiquary and natural philosopher. From Hellenistic Greek προτομή foremost or upper part of anything, bust or half-figure from ancient Greek προ- + τομή cutting, after προτέμνειν to cut off in front.
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