Sabotage [v., n. SAB-uh-tazh]
To sabotage is to deliberately destroy property or interfere with the operations of some enterprise, and the noun form of the word is the act of doing so. There is also the saboteur [sab-uh-TYUR], who is someone who sabotages. The words sound French, and they are. In French, a sabot is a clumsy wooden clog or boot, and saboter is to walk noisily in such boots. Originally the word sabotage applied primarily to French peasant revolts against oppressive landowners, in which the protesters may well have used their sabots to trample down crops and march noisily through town. The word came into English around 1910, and since then its meaning has changed, so that now it usually has the flavor of surreptitious, hidden interference, rather than noisy protest.

Pataphysics [n. PAT-uh-FIZ-iks]
Pataphysics is the study and philosophy of that which is beyond metaphysics. Since metaphysics is the study of that which is beyond physics, pataphysics is beyond what is beyond physics. Pataphysics was invented by French absurdist writers who wanted to parody the methods and procedures of modern science. They wrote pataphysical treatises, with sometimes nonsensical language, using obscure words out of context, without obvious rational meaning. The word was created from the French pataphysique, from an alteration of the Greek "ta epi ta metaphusika" (things after the metaphysics).

Ostracize [v. OSS-truh-size]
To ostracize someone is to banish them from a group, to send them away. "That liar has been ostracized from the Legion, and may not return." In ancient Greece, when someone misbehaved badly, there would be a popular vote. Those who were in favor of banishing the offender would write his or her name on a shard of broken pottery, an ostrakon. If enough ostraka were collected, the offender would be sent away for several years. The ancient Greek word ostrakon is related to osteon (bone) and ostreon (oyster). Today we also have the prefix osteo- as in osteopathy (bone disease), and teleost (a fish with actual bones rather than cartilage).

Gravity [n. GRAV-ih-tee]
Gravity is the attractive force that exists between any two particles of matter. It holds the planet Earth together, and keeps us from flying off into space. Our English word originated in the French gravite (heavy), which came from the Latin gravitas, from gravis (heavy). Gravity is one of a large family of words that originated from the idea of heaviness. The oldest root is the prehistoric Indo-European gru-, which branched into many languages and forms. One lineage produced the Greek barus (heavy) which is the root of baritone (a deep, heavy voice) and barium (a heavy element). Another led to the Sanskrit gurus (heavy, dignified), which was the root of guru (spiritual teacher). Still another path led to the Latin brutus (heavy, cumbersome, stupid) which evolved into the English brute (insensitive, savage, or cruel beast). One more lineage led to the English gravid (pregnant, as in "heavy with child").

Quiz [n., v. KWIZ]
A quiz is a questioning, an inquiry, or an oral or written test, and to quiz is to question or interrogate. Originally, a quiz was an eccentric person, and to quiz was to look at someone through a monocle with a mocking or questioning expression. This is one of those words with unknown origins, but no shortage of interesting theories and stories. The most interesting one is that around 1780, a Dublin theater owner named James Daly made a bet that he could introduce a totally meaningless word into the English language within 24 hours. He rounded up urchins and vagrants, giving them chalk and money, in return for which they were to write the word "quiz" on as many walls as they could find. By morning, everyone in Dublin was saying the new word!

Neoteny [n. nee-AWT-un-ee]
When an animal changes through evolution so that its adult form retains some characteristics of its younger form, the process is called neoteny. Example: "Through neoteny, the large relative head sizes of young apes were retained into adulthood in the later hominids, eventually becoming a feature of modern humans." Another likely example of neoteny among our own ancestors is the development of tunicate larvae into the first true chordates (see today's Cool Fact, below). The word comes from New Latin neo (new) and tenia (to extend), which is from the Greek teinein (to stretch or strain). Another word with the same meaning is paedomorphosis [ped-uh-MOR-fuh- sis], from the Greek paido- and pais (child) and the Greek morphosis (process of forming), which is from morphoun (to form) and morphe (form).

Glib [adj. GLIB]
This curious little word is used when describing someone's style of communicating, as in "He had a simple, glib manner that put his audience at ease." It means casual, relaxed, offhand, with a natural feeling. However, the word often carries an unspoken implication that the easy manner is a way of hiding something. Glib is probably of Germanic origin, from the Middle Low German word glibberich (slippery). The oldest root is an ancient form that has led to a great variety of modern words, with several different groups of meanings. The group to which glib belongs includes words that have to do with slipperiness, looking, staring, and brightness. Here are some of them: gleam, glimpse, glance, glint, glimmer, glitter, glitz, glisten, glister, glass, glaze, glare, gloss, glad, glee, glow, glower, gloat, gloaming, glide, glissade, and glitch.

Sofar [n. SO-far]
Sofar is a system for determining the exact position of survivors of shipwrecks lost at sea. An underwater explosion is set off by the survivors, causing sound waves to propagate in all directions. Analysis of the arrival times of these waves at three different locations allows the position of the survivors to be calculated. There's also a certain layer of the water called the SOFAR channel where sound can travel for a very long distance. Like sonar, laser, maser, and radar, this word is an acronym (shortened compound formed from the initial parts of words). The words that form sofar are so(und) f(ixing) a(nd) r(anging). Here are how some other acronyms are formed: Sonar: so(und) na(vigation and) r(anging) Laser: l(ight) a(mplification by) s(timulated) e(mission of) r(adiation) Maser: m(icrowave) a(mplification by) s(timulated) e(mission of) r(adiation) Radar: ra(dio) d(etecting) a(nd) r(anging)

Tweezers [n. TWEE-zers]
Tweezers are small tongs or pincers, usually with sharp, pointed ends, that are used for gripping small objects. The word may be used with a plural verb, "The tweezers are over there," or a singular verb: "Is that the tweezers under the table?" The name of the instrument used to be the name of its container. A tweeze was a small case for delicate instruments, including the pincers that came to be known as tweezers. The name came from etweese, which was an alteration of the French etuis, plural of etui (small ornamental case). Etui came from Old French estui (prison), from estuier (to guard), which is from Vulgar Latin estudiare (to treat carefully), from Latin studium (study). That root also led to words such as studious, student, and studio.

Ragamuffin [n. RAG-uh-MUF-in]
Although the "official" (dictionary) definition of ragamuffin is a shabby, dirty child, the word is often used affectionately, as in "Come in for dinner, you little ragamuffins!" For a long time it was thought that the word was first used in a 14th century poem called Piers Plowman, where it was the name of a demon. But further research revealed that it was used as the last name of a woman, Isabella Ragamuffin, somewhat earlier, in 1344. Even in those days, it carried the meaning of one who is dirty and unkempt. The first part, raga- is probably from the Middle English raggi (ragged) and the second part, -muffin, may have come from the Middle Dutch moffel or muffe (mitten).

Hyacinth [n. HY-uh-sinth]
The beautiful, aromatic flowers of the Mediterranean hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) bloom in spring. There is also the grape hyacinth, another spring bloomer, and the subtropical water hyacinth (not a close relative), which forms floating gardens with purple flowers. According to Greek legend, the youth Hyacinthus was accidentally killed during a competition between the Apollo (god of the sun) and Zephyrus (god of the gentle west wind). From his blood emerged a deep red flower, the hyacinth. Today's hyacinth flowers are not much like the lily that is described in the legend. The word has come into English through Latin (hyacinthus) and French (hyacinthe), and along the way it also mutated into jacinth, which is a red or cinnamon colored transparent gemstone.

Helicopter [n. HEL-ih-KOP-ter]
A helicopter is a flying machine with a propeller that spins in a horizontal plane, lifting the aircraft vertically. A second rotor usually spins vertically to stabilize the machine, keeping it from spinning around. Popular usage tends to split the word into heli- and -copter, so that we shorten it as copter (or even chopper, a probable reference to the sound of the machine in flight). In fact, the word arose from helico- and -pter. Helico- comes from the Greek helix, which is sometimes translated as spiral, but more correctly is a curve traced around a cylinder in three-dimensional space. This is the curve traced by the tips of the main rotor blades. The second part, -pter, is from Greek pteron (wing), which also gives us ornithopter (bird-winged aircraft) which is an aircraft with wings that flap like a bird's wings.

Kudos [n. KOO-dose / KOO-doss / KOO-doze]
Kudos is praise and acclaim for exceptional achievement. Although the word looks like a plural, it's always singular: "Great kudos was received upon the completion of his epic quest." The word was apparently brought into popular language by Time Magazine in the 1920s and 1930s, along with the word tycoon. Both words were sprinkled liberally throughout the magazine's articles, part of the magazine's distinctive early flavor, along with a peculiar, inverted sentence structure that has out of style now gone! Kudos is from the Greek kydos (magical glory). The most etymologically correct pronunciation is KOO-doss, but many people say KOO-dose

Volcano [n. vol-KAY-no]
A volcano is an opening in the crust of the Earth or another planet, through which hot gases, molten rock, or ash are ejected. Volcanoes demonstrate that the interior of the planet is hot and constantly changing. The word volcano migrated into English from Italian. It came originally from the Latin Volcanus, the God of fire and metalworking, known in English as Vulcan. In mythology, Vulcan was blacksmith to the gods, and maker of their weapons. There is an island near Sicily called Vulcano, with a volcanic vent that was once thought to be the chimney of Vulcan's forge. Here are some other volcanic words: Vulcan: a mythical, very hot planet said to orbit within the orbit of Mercury Vulcan: the home planet of TV's Mr. Spock vulcanization: a way of improving the properties of rubber by treating it with sulfur and other substances under high temperatures and pressures vulcanian: relating to metalworking or metal crafts

Yankee [n. YANG-kee]
Seen by non-Americans, a yankee is an American. In the American south, a yankee is a northerner. But according to the most popular theory of the origin of the word, the original yankees were actually Dutchmen. In pre-colonial times, the Dutch were disparagingly referred to by Britons as Jan Kaas, (literally, John Cheese). Later, the term was applied to Dutch pirates. When the Dutch settled in New England, the same name started to be used for other New Englanders. But was that the real origin of the word? Another theory says that some Native Americans were not able to pronounce "English," saying "Yengees" instead. In any case, the British soldiers wrote a song called "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in derision of the sloppily dressed colonial soldiers. The colonials liked it so much that they adopted it and sang it on the battlefield!

Congeries [n. kon-JER-eez, KON-jer-eez]
A congeries is a collection of things or parts that has been massed together. Usually there is an implication that the items are heaped up in a haphazard way: "This town is not much more than a congeries of run-down shacks." Like the words kudos and shambles, congeries is a singular noun that looks plural. (There's no such thing as a congerie!) The word is from the Latin congerere (to heap up), from the prefix co- (together, with, jointly) and gerere (to carry). The same root also gave us the words congest and congestion. Here are more joining-together words: conglomerate: a rock made of many smaller rocks bonded together or a corporation made up of a number of separate companies congress: a formal assembly of representatives congregation: a gathering of people or things conjugal: relating to marriage or the relationship of spouses congratulate: to "rejoice together"

Quark [n. KWARK]
A quark is a tiny, hypothetical particle that combines with other quarks to make some of the more familiar subatomic particles, including protons and neutrons, which make up the nucleus of every atom. The name was coined in 1964 by a physicist named Murray Gell-Mann, who said that he was strongly influenced by a poem from James Joyce's book, Finnegan's Wake: 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. In Joyce's poem, the word's meaning seems to be a kind of squawk or birdlike sound, but Gell-Mann liked the sound of it, and used it for the name of the subatomic particles he was proposing in his theory.

Umbrella [n. um-BREL-uh]
While most people today use an umbrella to stay dry when it's raining, the original umbrellas were used in Mediterranean regions by ladies, to create a little shade on hot days. In fact, the word means just that: a little shade. It's from the Italian ombrella, from the Late Latin umbrella. The latter is an alteration of umbella (parasol), which is the diminutive of umbra (shadow). There are some interesting English slang words for umbrella, mostly based on a strange combination of umbrella and parachute: bumbershoot, bumbersell, umbershoot, and many others. Here are more shadowy words: umbel: a flat-topped cluster of small flowers (shaped like an umbrella) umbrage: offense, shadow or shade, vague hint sombrero: a wide hat designed to create shade umbra: the dark, inner part of a shadow penumbra: the outer, fuzzy part of a shadow

Pickle [n., v. PIK-ul]
A pickle is a vegetable or other food item that has been preserved by soaking it in brine or vinegar, and to pickle something is to preserve it that way. You can also be in a pickle if you are in a difficult situation. Most sources agree that the word's recent source is the Middle English pikel (a spicy sauce or gravy), from the Middle Dutch pekel (brine, pickle). That takes us back to about 1400. The use of the word for "a difficult situation" is much more recent, probably from the Dutch phrase "in de pekel zitten" (to sit in a pickle). But prior to 1400 there are no known records of the word. So where did it come from? Here's one theory: the word comes from the name of a fourteenth century Dutch fisherman, one William Beukelz (or possibly Buekelszoon), who is said to have invented the process of preserving fish in brine!

Reign [n., v. RAYN]
The reign of a monarch (king, queen, or other permanent ruler) is the exercise of his or her sovereign power, and also the time during which he or she rules. A reign can also be a period of influence: "the reign of classic Greek architecture." There is also a verb form: "chaos reigned during the food fight." This is one of a group of words that emerged from the Latin word rex (king), and its relative, regnum (kingship). Here are more words from the same root: regal: of or about a monarch royal: regal regicide: the killing of a monarch regalia: emblems and symbols of royalty interregnum: the time between the reigns of two successive monarchs Although the word sovereign (having supreme rank or power) might appear to have a related origin, it does not. Its early root is the Latin super (above). However, it is possible that the similar spelling is a result of popular confusion about the word's origins, a word-evolution phenomenon called folk etymology.

Aposematic [adj. ap-uh-se-MAT-ik]
An animal that shows aposematic coloring advertises its inedibility or dangerousness by wearing bright warning colors. There are aposematic black and yellow wasps, and the black widow spider with its red hourglass shape. There are aposematic fish, like the colorful lionfish, which can kill a human by a touch of its poisonous sting barbs. The word begins with the Greek prefix apo- (off, away from), and ends with sematic, which is a word in its own right (serving as a warning or signal of danger), from the Greek sema (sign). So aposematic coloring is a signal of danger, which tells the observer to get away. Here are more off and away words: apostrophe: a punctuation mark that is up above the text apogee: the most distant point in an orbit around the Earth aposiopesis: a sudden breaking off in the middle of a sentence apostasy: abandonment of one's religious faith, political party, or principles apology: a speech that "explains away" an offense, fault, or mistake

Onomatopoeia [n. ON-uh-MAT-uh-PEE-uh]
A word that sounds the same as what it means shows the property of onomatopoeia, and such a word is onomatopoetic [On-uh-MAT-uh-poe-EH- tik]. It's a big word that usually describes small words! Here are some onomatopoetic words: click, gulp, gurgle, buzz, blip, beep, bleep, crash, crunch, murmur, hum, sizzle, plop, crackle, slither, pop, zip. The word came through Late Latin, from the Greek Onomatopoios (the coiner of names). There are two parts: onoma (name) and poiein (to make). Onoma has also evolved into the English onomastic (having to do with names) and onomastics (the study of names and naming). Here are some onomastic words: anonymous: having no name (or an unknown name) patronymic: a name derived from the name of one's father pseudonym: a name used instead of one's "real" name

Dialog [n. DY-uh-log]
A conversation between two or more people is a dialog (also spelled dialogue), and so is a musical form where two or more voices exchange passages. It may seem that the word falls naturally into the prefix di- and the suffix -alog, implying that a dialog is a conversation between only two parties, from the meaning of the Greek prefix di- (two). From this misunderstanding Sir Thomas More coined the word trialogue (a conversation between three people). The correct division is dia- and -log. The prefix is Greek for through or across, and a dialog is "communication across," from one person to another. The word derives from the Greek dialogos (conversation), from dia- plus legein (to speak). Here are some more across and through words: dialect: a regional variety of language (across the region!) dialectic: a way of discovering the truth through logical conversation diameter: the greatest distance across a circle diaphanous: transparent (can be seen through) diagonal: a line across a polygon, from one vertex to another

Dirigible [n. DIR-uh-juh-bul, duh-RIJ-uh-bul]
A dirigible is a self-propelled lighter-than-air craft that has elevators and rudders to direct its forward motion. This category includes blimps, which are inflated like balloons and supported by internal gas pressure, and zeppelins, which are rigid, supported by struts and hoops. Both kinds of dirigibles contain gases that provide buoyancy. Today, most dirigibles contain helium. Dirigibles are distinguished from non-propelled balloons in that they can be steered and propelled in a chosen direction. The word is based on the Latin dirigere (to direct) with the -ible suffix, which is a variant of -able (capable, susceptible, or worthy).

Bombast [n. BOM-bast]
Bombast is grandiose, inflated pomposity in speech or writing: "The professor's lecture was an exercise in self-glorifying bombast." There is also the adjective, bombastic. One story about the word is that it derived from the name of Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who was also known as Paracelsus, an alchemist and physician in the sixteenth century. However, its real origins are much older. Bombast may seem related to bombs and blasting, but actually it is closer in meaning to stuffing and padding. Its ultimate root is the Latin bombyx (silk), which evolved into to Late Latin bombax (cotton), and more recently the Old French bombace (cotton stuffing). There is a related word, bombazine (a kind of silk or cotton fabric). Here are some colorful words with the same meaning as bombast: rant, fustian, claptrap, rodomontade. All of these words refer to expressions which are inflated, overblown, and out of proportion to their content.

Eureka [interjection you-REE-ka]
The word eureka is usually accompanied by an exclamation mark. It is typically uttered by someone who has just discovered the answer to a difficult question or problem: "Ahah! That's the answer! Eureka!" There is a popular story about this word involving King Hiero II of Syracuse, Sicily and the mathematician Archimedes. According to the story Hiero wanted to know whether a certain crown was pure gold. He commissioned the mathematician Archimedes to discover the answer. Archimedes knew he needed to determine the density of the metal, but was unsure how. So, like many good thinkers in need of inspiration, he took a bath. When he got in, some of the bath water flowed over the lip of the tub. In a flash, he realized that he could measure the crown's volume by how much water it displaced. Knowing its volume and weight, he could calculate its density. He became so excited that he ran out into the street, still quite naked, shouting "Heurika! Heurika!" (I have found it!). It turned out that the crown was doctored with silver, and the merchant trying to sell it to the King was executed.

Flower [n, v. FLOU-ur]
Flowers are the reproductive structures of certain seed-bearing plants. The bright colours and distinctive aromas of flowers are often instrumental in attracting insects and other creatures, which are then involved in the pollination of the plant. Flower is part of a family of words about growing, thriving and blooming, a family that also includes bloom, bleed, bless, and a seemingly out of place word, ferret. How is "ferret" related to thriving and blooming? The meaning in this case is "to bring something to light by uncovering it or seeking it out." Thus, what is found expands and blooms into view. Here are more flowery words: florid: flushed with ruddy color; extremely ornate florid: (obsolete) covered with flowers (as, a meadow) florist: one who sells flowers floral: of or about flowers flourish: to thrive, to be at the peak of health

Bate [v. BATE]
To bate is to reduce in intensity or force. Today, the word almost always appears in the phrase "bated breath": "He told the story with bated breath, almost whispering, so that we had to lean forward to hear him." The word is a shortened form of abate (lessen, decrease, deduct, subside). It came through Middle English abaten, from Old French abattre (to beat down), from Latin ad- (toward, to) plus batre (to beat). Another word from the same root is batter (to hit repeatedly with violent blows). There is also a less common meaning for bate, also from the Old French batre: to flap wildly or frantically, usually used when describing the behavior of a falcon. Strangely, the common word "beat" came through a different path, from the Old English beaten (to strike), which is also the root of butt, button, and refute.

Triboluminescence [n. TRY-boh-loom-in-ESS-unce]
Triboluminescence is the creation of light through the motion of one surface against another. One great example is the light produced when a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver is crushed (subject of today's Cool Fact, see below). Tribo- is a prefix from the Greek tribos (a rubbing), from tribein (to rub). It is also the root of tribology (the study of friction), and triboelectricity (electricity produced by friction), and is related to tribulation (great affliction, distress, trials). Luminescence is the creation of light by means other than heat. It's from the Latin lumen (light) plus -escent, from Latin escens (beginning to become, resembling, characterized by). Here are some more "resembling" words: phosphorescent: glowing without heat (like phosphorus burning very slowly) fluorescent: glowing under radiation (like flourite under ultraviolet) opalescent: pearly, irridescent (like opal).

Millennium [n. mi-LEN-ee-yum]
By now almost everyone knows that the millennium is at hand, marking the passage of another thousand years on the Gregorian Calendar. Technically, because the calendar started out with AD 1, the new millennium begins on January 1, 2001, but most people think of it as starting January 1, 2000. Millennium is from the Latin mille (thousand) and annus (year). There is also biennium, which is two years, and decennium, which is ten years. We suggest some new names for time periods, following the same pattern: pentennium: five years centennium: one hundred years decamillennium: ten thousand years centamillennium: one hundred thousand years Here are more suggestions using the standard Greek-derived prefixes for various powers of ten: megennium: one million years, from mega- (million), from mega (grand) gigennium: one billion years, from giga- (billion), from gigas (giant) terennium: one trillion years, from tera- (trillion), from teras (monster)

Dollar [n. DOL-er]
The dollar is the unit of currency used in the United States. The same name is used for the currency in more than thirty other countries, including Canada, Australia, and Hong Kong. Where did the dollar get its name? The word's immediate ancestor is the Low German thaler, which was the name of a large silver coin used in the sixteenth century. These coins were minted by Count Schlick of Bohemia, who mined the metal in a valley called Joachimsthal (The Dale of Joachim), in the Erzgebirge Mountains of Czechoslovakia, known today as Jachymov. (Who is this Joachim? He is also known as Joseph, the biblical husband of Mary.) The coins at first were known as Joachimsthalers, but the name was later shortened to thaler. By about 1700, the spelling had settled to dollar. The US decided to call its currency "the dollar" in 1785.

Blindfold [n.,v. BLIND-fold]
Since a blindfold is usually a piece of cloth that is placed around the head to prevent vision, you might think that the word describes the folding of the cloth. Although the word's evolution was influenced by "fold," its original root had nothing to do with folding. The Old English verb blindfellian (to strike blind) led to the verb blindfelle (to place a bandage over someone's eyes), which was used through the sixteenth century. The ending -felle is closely related to the modern sense of fell as in "fell a tree" (to chop down or strike down). Through folk etymology (word evolution based on mistaken associations), blindfelle became blindfold, relating the word to the folded cloth. The word blind is from Old English. It's one of a family of words having to do with brightness, shining, flashing or burning. The original meaning of blind had to do with being dazzled. Here are some more bright words from the same family: blue, bleach, bleak, blaze, blemish, blend, blond, blanch, blank, blush, black, fulgent, flagrant, flamboyant, flame.

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