After spending some time looking at how guttural phonemes entered English by way of Norse languages (so barbaric!), I recently found myself looking up some words with silent initial g’s and ended up following the origin of “gnome” down its etymological rabbit hole. There’s not a bit of Norse involved, of course, as its ultimate base seems to be rooted in the Greek base genomos, meaning ‘earth-dweller.’
Accepting this as the root, however, takes a bit of a leap of faith. The clearest trail stops cold in the Modern Latin gnomus from the 16th century revival which referred to ‘elemental earth beings,’ which can be traced pretty clearly up to the inanimate garden inhabitants we so know and inherit today. Others prefer to point a different trail for gnome that leads instead to gnomic, which meant ‘intelligence’ and was closely related to the origin of the term gnosticism.
My guess is that these conflicting etymologies are two sides of a single coin. If you happen to have a source that will clear this up, please comment below or message me on Twitter @etymologynow .