One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Any venomous spider. Now historical.
2Zoology (In form Phalangium) a genus of arthropods, originally including harvestmen, false scorpions, and whip scorpions, later restricted to certain harvestmen (order Opiliones or Phalangida); (also phalangium) a harvestman of this genus.
Mid 16th century; earliest use found in Nicholas Udall (1504–1556), schoolmaster and playwright. From classical Latin phalangium a kind of venomous spider, a plant reputed to cure the bites of poisonous spiders from ancient Greek ϕαλάγγιον a kind of venomous spider, in Hellenistic Greek also a plant reputed to cure the bites of poisonous spiders from ϕαλαγγ-, ϕάλανξ + -ιον, suffix forming nouns. With sense 1a compare Middle French phalangion, Spanish falangio, Italian falangio, and also slightly later phalange.
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