Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Where did the word logarithm come from? Any relation to the word algorithm?

share|cite|improve this question
A great opportunity to make people aware of our sister site English Language and Usage that has a dedicated tag for etymology questions. – RegDwight May 8 '11 at 11:45
I'm leaving this as a comment instead: – Soarer May 8 '11 at 23:23
up vote 10 down vote accepted

There is no relation between the two words.

logarithm: 1610s, Mod.L. logarithmus, coined by Scottish mathematician John Napier (1550-1617), lit. "ratio-number," from Gk. logos "proportion, ratio, word"

algorithm: was derived from the name of 8th century Persian mathematcian al-Kwarizmi.

Note: I think it's unusual for a term to derive from a person's name, especially in mathematics. I know words like "bowdlerize" (meaning to edit by removing offensive material) from Thomas Bowdler, or a "spoonerism" (a phrase constructed by exchanging syllables between words, eg "Swell foop") named after William Spooner, but in math I believe it's quite rare. The now-standard lowercase "abelian" is perhaps another example.

share|cite|improve this answer
Is there any reason it's called a logarithm and not something else? Now I'm curious. – Leonardo Fontoura May 8 '11 at 4:04
This: seems to agree. – Aryabhata May 8 '11 at 4:04
Well, besides abelian, there's Noetherian, Artinian, Gaussian, Riemannian, Jacobian, Laplacian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian, d'Alembertian, Eulerian, Lorentzian, Dedekind (as in domain), Hilbert (as in scheme), Jacobson (as in ring)... – Qiaochu Yuan May 8 '11 at 4:30
@Qiaochu: Note that I was requiring that the word be accepted as "elevated" to lowercase usage in order to sufficiently divorce it from its origin as a proper noun. Both "algorithm" and (often) "abelian" enjoy this status. – Fixee May 8 '11 at 4:46
That reminds me... – J. M. May 8 '11 at 5:38

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.