I believe that the meaning of morpha is "form, like, kind". But where does the nepo prefix originate from? I seem to get a lot of terms like 'nepotism' in my searches, but I wonder how purely aquatic hemipterans ('sucking' aquatic 'bugs') derive their name from such a prefix.

I felt it must have something more to do with aquatic/water born habitats than a simply relational 'nepotism' like device. Yet I cannot seem to find a Latin or Greek/other classical term that is similar apart from that in nepotism. And if it does simply define itself as some kind of 'relational' form, then why is it juxtaposed so clearly against gerromorpha?

In other words, the surface dwelling bugs-which appears to connote a geo — or at least semi-earth type sense — this leads me to believe I am searching for a water related latin/greek term — or other origin for this nepo-morpha prefix — can you help? Is there some kind of aquatic classical reference within 'nepo'?

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  • The only Greek word in the Middle Liddell that it could come from is νέποδες (nepodes) 'young ones, children'. This is cognate with English nephew, and comes from the PIE root *nepōt 'grandson, nephew' (Pok. 764). – jlawler Dec 19 '12 at 0:08
  • @jlawler: In which of these words do you think a Greek root was used? I can only find Latin nepa for nepidae. – Cerberus Dec 19 '12 at 16:12
  • Morph is Greek. – jlawler Dec 19 '12 at 16:31

Nepida "water-scorpion-like" (apparently coined by Leach in 1818) comes from classical Latin nepa(s), meaning "scorpion" or "crab". The water scorpion or nepa is currently a genus under the family of nepidae, which in turn fall under the infraorder of nepomorpha; according to Wikipedia, it was so named or classified by Linnaeus himself in 1758.

Latin nepa was borrowed from an African language (according to Festus, p. 163):

Nepa: Afrorum lingua sidus, quod cancer appelatur, vel, ut quidam volunt, scorpios.

In a/the language of Africans, the star named "crab", or, as some would have it, "scorpion".

He then proceeds to give a quotation from Plautus, where nepa is used metaphorically for an animal that could be either a kind of crab or a (water) scorpion.

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