This question is more of a question about the origin of a physical term moment used in many contexts. My question is about the linguistic or historical meaning of the word "moment".

Please don't provide the mathematical equations for the moment of inertia or the electric of magnetic dipole moment. My question is about the essence of the word.

I'm asking this question because as a non-native English speaker, I find it confusing as how did this word got to be used in the different contexts.


The origin of the word is the Latin verb movere which means "to move"; the noun is motus which means "motion". The root of the Latin word comes from the protolanguage Indo-European where meue/mew- means "to push away".

In other languages like Spanish we say momento or in French moment [like in moment cinétique=moment angulaire=angular momentum]. Amusingly, to refer to the vector $\mathbf{p}$ in English we say momentum, in Spanish momento lineal / cantidad de movimiento $\simeq$ "quantity of movement" and in French we just have the option quantité de mouvement.

For more info see here and here.


protected by Qmechanic Nov 14 '13 at 18:16

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