Yesterday I found an interesting word in the book I was reading, The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton. Obviously, there are many words in the book, but this one caught my attention and I thought it would be a good idea to do some research.

I found the word in this sentence:

“Dolly battled an urge to fell the other woman with a sharp jab to the shins, but decided it wouldn’t be proper.”

Dolly was somehow… annoyed, as you can imagine from her thoughts, but I was happy to find an interesting word to write about.

When I was just a little girl and began to learn English nouns, I was fascinated by the names of the parts of the human body. I was curious enough to learn them one by one, first the “big ones”: head, arms, legs…, and then the “small ones”: eyes, neck, fingers, toes…

The word I would like to talk about today is “shin”.

We can find the origin of “shin” before 1000 in the Proto-Indo-European root *skei- (to cut, split), to Proto-Germanic *skino (meaning narrow or thin piece), to Old English scinu (meaning fore part of the lower leg), to Middle English shineRelated to German Schiene (thin plate) and Dutch scheen.

So the changes over time could be: *skei > *skino > scinu > shine > shin

[The forms with asterisk, as you may know, mean that they are reconstructed by linguists, i.e., we don’t have written proofs of them.]

The first known use of “shin” is dated before 12th century.

“Shin” is a noun meaning:17

  1. The front part of the leg between the knee and ankle.
  2. The front edge of the tibia.
  3. Mainly in British English: a cut of beef, the lower foreleg.

It is also the name of the 21st letter in the Hebrew alphabet (שׁ), transliterated as sh. (This from Hebrew shīn, meaning tooth).

As a verb it means:

  1. To climb quickly up or down by gripping with one’s arms and legs and hauling oneself up (this verb was originally in nautical use; early 19th cent.)
  2. To kick (someone) in the shins.

The phonetic transcription for “shin” is:  /ʃɪn/

(NOTES: Proto-Indo-European: hypothetical reconstructed ancestral language, about 5.500 years ago; Proto-Germanic, hypothetical prehistoric ancestor of all Germanic languages, including English; Old English: the English language as written and spoken c.450-c.1100; Middle English: the English language as written and spoken c.1100-c.1500.)

You can also listen to a nursery rhyme to sing and learn some other parts of the body…



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