alopecia - This medical term, referring to a complex of conditions that involve sudden and sometimes inexplicable hair loss and baldness, comes from the classical Greek word for fox, alopex. The term refers not to a quick-moving, healthy specimen, which has a luxurious mane, but to a fox that is similarly distressed with mange.
penne - In Italian, a bird feather is called a penne - the origin of our word "pen," the writing utensil. The pasta with this name resembles the shaft of a father, with its thin shape and hollow interior. One of the most popular dishes made with it, penne all'arrabbiata, translates to "angry feathers," so called because of the abundant hot pepper used in the tomato sauce.
zombie - In the practice of voodoo, the resurrection of the dead is something best left to the gods, or nzambi in various Bantu languages of Africa. When humans do the resurrecting, the results are likely to be flawed, as thousands of horror movies attest. The use of the word to indicate the walking dead, a staple of such films to this very day, dates only to 1946.
peony - Members of the genus Paeonia can reach ten inches in diameter and occur in almost every color except blue. The perennial, which can live to be a hundred years old, takes its name from the Greek place name Paionia, protected by the god Apollo, who governs both doctors and warriors - both of whom were grateful for a healing salve made from the flowers.