Jan 15, 2010
A few years ago, Bradshaw of the Future etymologized Chimaira, a three-headed monster of Greek legend. It was the correct etymology as far as status quo answers are concerned and we find the same, boring origin story repeated several times in several books and in several websites in several languages. If it's repeated 1000 times, it must be correct, right? (Just like the flat earth theory or Intelligent Design.) What personally irritates me about this standard etymology for Chimaira is that it only appears on the surface to give us a solution while leaving us with even more questions.
Granted, the idea is seductive that Greek χίμαιρα chimaira could simply be a feminine form of χίμαρος chimaros 'he-goat' and ultimately related to χεῖμα cheima 'winter' (ie. 'winter goat', as in a young goat that experiences one winter, hence a one-year-old goat). Yet, what the hell does this really have to do with the three-headed monster of the same name?? As you can see in the picture above of the Etruscan bronze artwork known as the Chimaira of Arezzo which is closely related to the Greek images of the monster, only one of the three heads is that of a goat, the other two being those of a lion and of a serpent. It's an unresolved onus on the part of these etymologists to satisfactorily explain how any of the words implicated in Chimaira's etymology really fit together smoothly. I smell a folk etymology.
Meanwhile, for me, the Etruscan Chimaira brings up an important question: What was the word for Chimaira in Etruscan? Surely they had a word for it. Perhaps it was the same as the Greek or similar? It may seem like a silly question, and perhaps it is, but it's led me down an interesting path to a new etymology for this name. If I get into the shoes of an Etruscan for a moment and speak the name Chimaira, I find it unavoidable to hear in it the Etruscan word ci 'three'. The monster has three heads afterall. Could it be that this is not a name of Indo-European origin but of Aegean origin? Could it have meant something like 'three-headed' or 'three-faced' and only later associated by Greeks with native words like χίμαρος and χεῖμα?
 See Online Etymology: chimera