One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The axis (second cervical vertebra). In early use also: †the atlas (first cervical vertebra) (obsolete).
Mid 17th century; earliest use found in Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654), physician and astrologer. From post-classical Latin epistropheus first cervical vertebra, second cervical vertebra from Hellenistic Greek ἐπιστροϕεύς first cervical vertebra from ancient Greek ἐπι- + στροϕεύς socket in which the pivot of a door moved, in Hellenistic Greek also vertebra from στρόϕος + -εύς, suffix forming masculine nouns; compare ancient Greek ἐπιστρέϕειν to turn around, turn about.
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