One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Fifth in order or rank.
historical Relating to or denoting a former system of classification in which the animal kingdom is divided into five subkingdoms, and each subkingdom into five classes.
- ‘When Darwin read that an opponent of the ‘quinary’ system was proposing a modification to sets of four, he expostulated in his notebooks, ‘Anyone may believe anything in such rigmarole about analogies and numbers’.’
Early 17th century: from Latin quinarius, from quini ‘five at once, a set of five’, from quinque ‘five’.
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