Origin of quarkarbitrary use (by M. Gell-Mann) of a word used by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake (1939), probably from archaic quark, to croak, of echoic origin, originally
- Any of a class of six fundamental fermions, two in each of the three generations, one having an electric charge of −13, the other, +23, comprising the down, up, strange, charm, bottom, and top quarks. Quarks are the basic components of all hadrons.
- Any of the six quarks' associated antiparticles, the antiquarks.
Origin of quarkFrom Three quarks for Muster Mark! , a line in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce Word History: “Three quarks for Muster Mark! / Sure he hasn't got much of a bark / And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.” This passage from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, part of a scurrilous 13-line poem directed against King Mark, the cuckolded husband in the Tristan legend, has left its mark on modern physics. The poem and the accompanying prose are packed with names of birds and words suggestive of birds, and the poem is a squawk against the king that suggests the cawing of a crow. The word quark comes from the standard English verb quark, meaning “to caw, croak,” and also from the dialectal verb quawk, meaning “to caw, screech like a bird.” It is easy to see why Joyce chose the word, but why should it have become the name for a group of hypothetical subatomic particles proposed as the fundamental units of matter? Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who proposed this name for these particles, said in a private letter of June 27, 1978, to the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary that he had been influenced by Joyce's words: “The allusion to three quarks seemed perfect” (originally there were only three subatomic quarks). Gell-Mann, however, wanted to pronounce the word with (ô) not (ä), as Joyce seemed to indicate by rhyming words in the vicinity such as Mark. Gell-Mann got around that “by supposing that one ingredient of the line 'Three quarks for Muster Mark' was a cry of 'Three quarts for Mister … ' heard in H.C. Earwicker's pub,” a plausible suggestion given the complex punning in Joyce's novel. It seems appropriate that this perplexing and humorous novel should have supplied the term for particles that come in six “flavors” and three “colors.”
Origin of quarkGerman from Middle High German quarc from Lower Sorbian twarog from Old Church Slavonic tvarogŭ ; see teuə- in Indo-European roots.
First used in 1963 by the discoverer of quarks, Murray Gell-Mann, to name these new particles. The literary connection to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake was asserted later (quote below).