ceramic (adj.)

1850, keramic, "of or belonging to pottery," from Greek keramikos, from keramos "potter's earth; tile; earthen vessel, jar, wine-jar, pottery," which perhaps from a pre-Hellenic word.

Watkins suggests a connection with Latin cremare "to burn," but Klein's sources are firmly against this. Beekes writes "No certain etymology," finds connection with kerasai "to mix" to be "formally unproblematic, but semantically not very convincing," and regards the proposed connection to verbs for "to burn, glow" "better from the semantic side." He concludes, "this technical term for tile-making may well be Pre-Greek (or Anatolian)."

The spelling has been influenced by French céramique (1806). Related: ceramist "person devoted to ceramic art" (1855). Ceramics "art of making things from clay molded and baked" is attested from 1857.

updated on November 19, 2022