before vowels pneum-, word-forming element meaning "lung," from Greek pneumōn "lung," altered (probably by influence of pnein "to breathe") from pleumōn (which was an alternative form in Attic), literally "floater," probably cognate with Latin pulmo "lung(s)," from PIE root *pleu- "to flow." The notion perhaps is from the fact that, when thrown into a pot of water, lungs of a slaughtered animal float, while the heart, liver, etc., do not (compare Middle English lights "the lungs," literally "the light (in weight) organs").  Greek pneumōn also meant "jellyfish, medusa," "perhaps from its rhythmical pulsation, as if breathing" [Thompson].

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