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quincunx (n.)

1640s, originally astrological, of planetary alignments at a distance of five signs from one another, from Latin, literally "five twelfths" (especially "five unciae," that is, "five-twelfths of an as," the basic unit of Roman currency), from quinque "five" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five") + uncia "ounce; a twelfth part (of anything)," related to unus "one" (from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique").

From 1650s as "arrangement of five objects in a square, one at each corner and one in the middle" (like the five pips on a playing card or spots on dice). Also applied, especially in garden design, to arrangements in two sets of oblique rows at right angles to one another (1660s), a sense also in the Latin word. Related: Quincuncial; quincuncially.

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