On some words with the prefix ‘plat-’

Abhishek VR
1 min readJul 6, 2021

· We inquire into the etymologies of the following words – plate, platform, plateau, platypus, platitude, platinum, and platonic.

· The root word is ‘plata-’ meaning ‘flat’ in Latin.

· Plates and platforms are flat, as is a plateau (a hill or mountain with a flattish top).

· The platypus is an aquatic mammal with a flattened bill, like that of a duck.

· A platitude is a cliché, a saying that expresses a well-known truth. It is flat and boring.

· What is flat about platinum, the chemical element? The link is indirect: platinum looks very much like silver metal, and plates in antiquity were usually made of silver, so much so that the two words (silver and plate) were almost synonymous.

· Asexual love is termed ‘platonic’, and it is easy to trace this term to Plato, who expounded on types of love in his book Symposia. However, we go further and discover that the name ‘Plato’ itself was accorded to its owner, whose real name was Aristocles, on account of his broad ‘flat’ shoulders.

· The spoonbill, a genus of wader birds with spatulate bills, are also given the generic name ‘Platalea’. There are a few species of wattle-eyes, birds with somewhat broad bills, bearing the generic name ‘Platysteira’. It is a pity that the true broadbills (e.g., the Silver broadbill, the Long-tailed Broadbill, etc) do not carry the ‘plat’ anywhere in their scientific names.