Date: September 11, 2019 11:08AM
Here's the real story about the origin of the names "Nephite" and "Lamanite".
Researchers have now discovered the origin of the name "Nephi" and its derivative "Nephites," both prominent in the Book of Mormon, one of the sacred scriptures of Mormonism.
Actually, rather than "Nephite" being derived from "Nephi," as has commonly been assumed, it's really the other way around: "Nephi" is derived from "Nephites" - what linguists call a "back formation" (German "Rückbildung").
Nephi, it turns out, is probably a mythical, invented character, the legendary ancestor of the tribe, much as the legendary "Judah" was invented to be the ancestor of the Judeans (Jews), or Romulus for the Romans.
The ancient tribe that claims descent from the legendary "Nephi" claimed that they had, in ancient times, been visited by a Christ-like god, who gave them a set of strict laws to follow, mostly prohibitions. Violations were punishable by death. One of the strictest of these was "Do not raise your hand in anger against any man, friend or foe!" This naturally hindered the tribe from being very successful in combat, either offensive or defensive. They soon realized that they could avoid literal violation of the law by simply using other body parts rather than the hand: heads, shoulders, feet, knees. At this they became very skillful, and in spite of their refusal to use their hands in combat, they soon became known among neighboring tribes as formidable opponents, especially due to their ability to fell a foe with a single blow with a knee. Their enemies dubbed them the "knee-fighters." Since the native languages usually dropped a final -r sound, this name was shortened to "Knee-fights" and in the reformed Egyptian of their records was spelled "Ne-phites" or "Nephites." The legend then arose among them about their ancestor Knee-figh, to explain their name.
The Knee-fighters were ultimated wiped out by another tribe, who devised an effective defensive device made by making a shield of wood, strengthened by gluing several layers of thin wood together, a kind of plywood. They discovered that they could also use this technique to make offensive weapons, a kind of sword or spear. Because they became skillful at the art of laminating wood, they became known as the "laminators," shortened (as noted above) to "laminates." Over the course of time this name underwent a widely observed vowel shift, and ended up as "Lamanites."