What is the origin of colubrine?
Colubrine “of or resembling a snake” derives from the Latin adjective colubrīnus, of the same meaning, from coluber “snake.” Despite the similar spelling, coluber is not the source of coil, the circular gathering movement that typifies snakes; coil derives instead from the Latin verb colligere “to gather together,” and coil’s resemblance to colubrine is a happy coincidence. Much as English has multiple names for wolverines, as we learned in yesterday’s Word of the Day podcast about quickhatch, the Romans had several words for snakes. In addition to coluber, two other Latin terms meaning “snake” that have descendants in English were dracō and serpēns, which you may also recognize as constellations. From dracō, originally a borrowing from Ancient Greek, we have dragon as well as draconian and the name of an antagonist in the Harry Potter book series. From serpēns, literally meaning “crawling,” English has serpent and serpentine. Colubrine was first recorded in English in the 1520s.