before vowels, lac-, word-forming element used in chemistry and physiology from 19c. and meaning "milk," from Latin lac (genitive lactis) "milk," from Proto-Italic *(g)lagt-, from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk." This and the separate root *melg- (source of milk (n.)) account for words for "milk" in most of the Indo-European languages. The absence of a common word for it is considered a mystery. Middle Irish lacht, Welsh llaeth "milk" are loan words from Latin.
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