Why are "ear lobes" called "ear lobes?"     

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linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I love questions about etymology because finding the answer is like stepping into history. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word "ear" is from the Old English word "eare," which is borrowed from the Greek "aus," meaning "perception." The word "lobe" is from the Greek "lobos," meaning "hull or husk." Thus the earlobe is the hull or husk hanging from the ear. That makes sense, because the earlobe is soft and easily pierced.

A bit of trivial information, also from the Online Etymology Dictionary: until the 1880s some people believed that piercing the ears would improve eyesight!

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ophelious's profile pic

ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Hmm..."ear lobe" does sound like one of those "imponderables," doesn't it?  Kind of like asking why they call a "toe" a "toe?"  Actually, there is a good reason why it is called an "ear lobe."  Let's take a look:

First, "ear."  From what I researched, "ear" just means "ear."  Though it comes from the old English eare, which is related to the Dutch oor (and German ohr,) which come from Latin "auris." Translated, "auris" doesn't mean anything cool or fancy...it just means "ear" (the organ related to hearlng.)

The "lobe" is the part you are more interested in, but even this doesn't exactly have a cool origin when connected to "ear lobe."  A lobe is, according to Webster's

"a roundish and flattish part of something, typically each of two or more such parts divided by a fissure, and often projecting or hanging."

So, as you can see, the little flattish part of skin that hangs from the ear itself is, by definition, a lobe.  There is no cool historical origin to the words "ear lobe."  It just follows their standard definition.

Hope this helped!

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Ear lobe is the soft loosely hanging part of the external ear. The external ear itself is made up of two parts - the auricle is the fleshy, curved projection by the side of the head, and the external auditory canal. The upper part of auricle consists mainly of tough elastic tissues called cartilage which is covered by the thin layer of skin, and the lower par is the ear lobe which made up mainly of fat covered by skin.

The name ear lobe is composed of two words - ear and lobe. The word ear indicates that it is a part of ear. The world lobe refers primarily to its shape. In English language the word lobe is generally used for rounded projected parts of some other object. For example we also speak of lobes of things like leaf, lung, brain and gland.

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