In Europe, tongue stones were also known by various other names, the most common being Glossopetrae (Latin for tongue stone), Linguae Melitenis (Maltese tongues), or Linguae S. Pauli (tongues of St Paul).
German people referred to them as Nattern-zungen (adders' tongues), or Schlangenzungen (serpents' tongues), while the Maltese called them Ilsien San Pawl (St. Paul's tongues) (Zammit-Maempel 1975).
Glossopetrae were often considered in ancient times to have 'grown' naturally within the rock. This process, called vis-plastica, was once a popular explanation for the origin of fossils in general. It was thought that sharks' teeth could spontaneously generate themselves, as some teeth had smaller lateral projections, which were considered to be offspring still attached to their parents.