1670s of plants, "part of the ovary of flowering plants which bears the ovules," 1690s of mammals, "organ of attachment of a vertebrate embryo or fetus to the wall of the uterus or womb of the female," from Modern Latin placenta uterina "uterine cake" (so called 16c. by Italian anatomist Realdo Colombo), from Latin placenta "a cake, flat cake," from Greek plakoenta, accusative of plakoeis "flat," from plax "flat, flat land, surface, plate," from PIE root *plak- (1) "to be flat." So called from the shape.
"of or pertaining to a placenta," 1784, from Modern Latin placentalis, from placenta (see placenta).
also *plāk-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to be flat;" extension of root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread."
It forms all or part of: flag (n.2) "flat stone for paving;" flagstone; flake (n.) "thin flat piece,; flaw; floe; fluke (n.3) "flatfish;" placenta; plagal; plagiarism; plagio-; planchet; plank.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek plakoeis "flat," plax "level surface, anything flat;" Lettish plakt "to become flat;" Old Norse flaga "layer of earth," Norwegian flag "open sea," Old English floh "piece of stone, fragment," Old High German fluoh "cliff."