Cameleon (1)

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Cameleon pro planta scribitur sic chamelaeon, pro animali vero sic chamaeleon.


Cameleon ABCDQR efgijklmopst | Chameleon m | Camelonta n

scribitur ABCDQR egijklmopst | om. f | scribi n

chamelaeon ACDQR | empty space B eknot | om. fgijlms | χωλμελαιον (distorted Greek script) p

pro animali ACDQR efjklnopst | ut Dia. pro animali B | proali gi | et pro animali m

vero sic ABCDQR egijklnost | sic eciam f | om. m | vero sic scribitur p

chamaeleon ACDQR | empty space B eknt | om. fgijlmos | (illegible script) p

Entry is missing in z


Cameleon - the spelling for the plant is this: chamelaeon, but for the animal it is chamaeleon.


This spelling arrangement is pure fantasy on Simon's part. The word is in Latin chamaeleon and it was borrowed from Greek χαμαιλέων /khamailéōn/, - literally meaning "ground lion" - where it meant the animal but also various plants. The Greek word was adopted into Latin as chamaeleon. In late Latin and in the medieval period 'ch' was often only written as 'c', and 'ae' was routinely replaced by 'e'. However in authors of an historicising tendency 'e' was often unetymologically written as 'ae'.

As for the animal it refers most likely to Chamaeleo chamaeleon L. "the common chameleon", which includes several localised subspecies. It has a wide distribution ranging from the Iberian Peninsula over North Africa, the Middle East and Southern Arabia, to Turkey and it occurs also on most Mediterranean islands.

As for the plants, they are named chamaeleon after the animal because of their variable flower colours according to Dioscorides Longobardus, 3, 9, ed. Stadler (1899: 381) De cameleonta nigra: Sed dicitur cameleon pro varietate florum eius, quia aut viridia aut alba aut iacinto similia rufa, sed pro vareetate (sic!) locorum - "It is called chamaeleon because of the {colour} variety of its flowers, for they occur green or white or reddish similar to the "hyacinthus", or because of their different habitats".

Dioskorides distinguishes the "white" chamaeleon, i.e. χαμαιλέων λευκός /khamailéōn leukós/ and the "black" chamaeleon, i.e. χαμαιλέων μέλας /khamailéōn mélas/. The white chamaeleon is frequently identified, e.g. Berendes (1902: 268), André (1956: 84), with Atractylis gummifera L. "pine-thistle", a plant with a northern Mediterranean distribution.

The black chamaeleon is frequently identified, e.g. Berendes (p. 269), André ibid., with Cardopatium corymbosum (L.) Pers. "black chameleon", a plant of the Eastern Mediterranean.

See also: Cameleon (2), Harbe

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