pons asinorum

Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A problem that severely tests the ability of an inexperienced person.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a problem that severely tests the ability of an inexperienced person

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[New Latin pōns asinōrum, bridge of fools (nickname of the Fifth Proposition in the Elements of Euclid, due to its difficulty) : Latin pōns, bridge + Latin asinōrum, genitive pl. of asinus, ass, fool.]

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  • Pons Asinorum (Latin for "Bridge of Asses") is the name given to Euclid's fifth proposition in Book 1 of his Elements of geometry:

    In isosceles triangles the angles at the base equal one another, and, if the equal straight lines are produced further, then the angles under the base equal one another.

    October 24, 2007

  • "Another medieval term for the pons asinorum was Elefuga which, according to Roger Bacon, comes from Greek elegia misery, and fuga Latin for flight, that is "flight of the wretches". Though this etymology is dubious, it is echoed in Chaucer's use of the term "flemyng of wreches" for the theorem.

    There are two possible explanations for the name pons asinorum, the simplest being that the diagram used resembles an actual bridge. But the more popular explanation is that it is the first real test in the Elements of the intelligence of the reader and functions as a "bridge" to the harder propositions that follow. Gauss supposedly once espoused a similar belief in the necessity of immediately understanding Euler's identity as a benchmark pursuant to becoming a first-class mathematician."

    -- https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pons_asinorum&oldid=674772528

    September 14, 2015