Yesterday I shared with you my new favourite word: neck-verse. The first time I typed it, it sounded like an informal term for a group of films all tied together by featuring characters related to a superhero called The Neck.

And sadly, while such a series of films doesn’t (yet) exist, it made me think of the newly-obvious similarity between the words verse and universe. Could there be a link?

First of all, what’s the etymology of universe? Uni- obviously means one, but what about verse? That part comes from the Latin verb vertere (to turn). The idea behind the word is that the universe is comprised of its disparate elements all turned into one entity.

Other words derived from this verb include versus (one party turned against another) and version (a work translated, or turned into, another language). And of course, verse. The link between how we use verse in a literary sense and the original verb isn’t so obvious though.

Vertere originally referred to the ploughing of the earth by farmers, and verse is actually still quite directly related to that. The idea is that in a poem, for example, the writer turns from one line to another, just like a farmer turns from one line to the next when ploughing.

So yes, verse and universe are quite closely linked. But sadly, we still have to wait for the neck-verse films to come out.

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