Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, December 09, 2021

eradicate

[ ih-rad-i-keyt ]

verb (used with object)

to remove or destroy utterly; extirpate.

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What is the origin of eradicate?

Eradicate “to remove or destroy utterly” comes from the Latin verb ērādīcāre “to root out,” a compound of ē- “out” and rādīx “root.” Other derivatives of rādīx include radical, the primary sense of which is “of or going to the root or origin,” and radish, an edible root. The ultimate origin of rādīx is the Proto-Indo-European root wrād- “branch, root,” which is also the source of English root, wort, and orchard; Latin rāmus “branch” (as in ramify); and Ancient Greek rhíza “root” (as in the combining form rhizo- and the noun licorice, the latter from Ancient Greek glykýrriza “sweet root”). Eradicate was first recorded in English circa 1560.

how is eradicate used?

Four years ago, Pakistan had more than 300 cases of polio. And the government, the United Nations and aid groups started a campaign to eradicate the virus. It is not easy because in order to vaccinate a kid, you need to find the kid several times over many weeks and give several doses of vaccine. So now every few weeks, almost half a million people are going out and trying to vaccinate 38 million children. Things are looking good. There’s only been one polio case this year, but getting down to zero is tough.

Steve Inskeep, as quoted in “Pakistan Still Struggles To Eradicate Polio,” NPR, May 18, 2018

Since 2008, Argentina and Chile have agreed that to save their southernmost forests, they must rid them of beavers. Some hunters working to eradicate beavers use snares in addition to rifles. But beavers are smart—they sometimes use weeds and sticks to trigger the snares without getting caught themselves.

Haley Cohen Gilliland, "Argentina brought beavers to Tierra del Fuego. It was not a good idea," National Geographic, July 25, 2019

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Word of the day

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

fomites

[ fom-i-teez, foh-mi-. ]

plural noun

surfaces, as clothing or door handles, that can become contaminated with pathogens when touched by the carrier of an infection, and can then transmit the pathogens to those who next touch the surfaces.

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What is the origin of fomites?

Fomites “surfaces that can become contaminated with and transmit pathogens” is the plural form of the noun fomes, from Latin fōmes “kindling wood.” Although fomes is the correct singular form of fomites, fomite also appears in English because of a process known as back formation; because most English nouns are pluralized by adding -s, the final -s is dropped from fomites by mistaken analogy with other English nouns. Similar back formations include primate (from Latin singular prīmās, plural prīmātēs) and termite (from Latin singular termes, plural termitēs). Other back formations of non-Latin origin include cherry (from Old English singular ċiris) and pea (from Modern English singular pease). Fomites was first recorded in English at the turn of the 19th century.

how is fomites used?

[Girolamo] Fracastoro believed that diseases were caused by imperceptible seedlike entities … which could multiply rapidly, propagate quickly, and were unique to each disease. He posited that these seeds could spread in three distinct ways. Firstly, by direct contact (including shaking hands), secondly, by indirect contact through fomites (inanimate objects such as clothing), and lastly over long distances through the air, emphasizing that the thing that binds the three modes of transmission together is that all are “contagious by direct contact.” While some of these ideas had been considered by previous scholars, Fracastoro was the first to fuse the three causes of transmission into a coherent theory of contagion.

Ewan Morgan, “The Physician Who Presaged the Germ Theory of Disease Nearly 500 Years Ago,” Scientific American, January 22, 2021

I realized that when I took a croissant barehanded I touched only the one that I was going to eat, whereas if I’d used tongs I’d have handled an implement that had been touched by every diner who came before me. Tongs are an example of what epidemiologists call fomites—objects that convey infectious agents between individuals. And fomites, if you look for them, are just about everywhere: tabletops, doorknobs, toilet seats, stethoscopes. Smooth objects, like tongs, make better fomites than porous ones, like dollar bills, because infectious agents protrude from their surfaces and can be detached more easily.

David Owen, "Hands Across America," The New Yorker, February 24, 2013

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Word of the day

Tuesday, December 07, 2021
Word of the Year

allyship

[ al-ahy-ship ]

noun

the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.

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Why Dictionary.com chose allyship

The year 2021 has been defined by the many ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the polarization of 2020—and the various ways we continue to grapple with them. The vastness of such a year could never be fully summarized with a single word. But there is one word that’s intertwined with so many of the things we’ve experienced in 2021: allyship, our 2021 Word of the Year. As our Word of the Year for 2021, allyship carries an additional special distinction this year: It marks the first time we’ve chosen a word that’s new to our dictionary as our Word of the Year. Our addition of the word allyship to our dictionary in 2021—not to mention our decision to elevate it as our top word for the year—captures important ways the word continues to evolve in our language and reflects its increased prominence in our discourse. Allyship acts as a powerful prism through which to view the defining events and experiences of the past year—and, crucially, how the public processed them. And while we must acknowledge that efforts at allyship are all too often insufficient and imperfect, the word nonetheless stands out for its role in the path out of the continued crises of 2020 toward a better 2022. Read more about Dictionary.com's 2021 Word of the Year allyship.

What is the origin of allyship?

Allyship “the status of being an advocate for the inclusion of a marginalized group of which the advocate is not a member” is a compound of the noun ally and the combining form -ship, the latter of which denotes condition, character, or skill. Ally derives via Anglo-French and Old French from the Latin verb alligāre “to bind to,” from ligāre “to bind.” Additional descendants of ligāre include alloy, league, liable, ligament, and oblige, all of which involve a link to or merger with another person, object, or entity. Latin alligāre became alier “to unite, combine, join (in kinship)” in Old French, and its derivative noun, alliiet, gained the sense of “relative.” From there, ally shifted in English to mean “friend, associate” and then developed the additional meaning of “supporter or member of an alliance.” Today, the term has developed a specific nuance: allies are not part of the group that they support but stand in solidarity with the group nonetheless. Allyship was first recorded in English in the late 1840s in the sense “the state of being associated with another or others for a common purpose,” a definition that differs from allyship’s current meaning.

how is allyship used?

After the … nationwide outrage last summer, corporate America leaned harder into … superficial solutions. Companies were quick to promise an inclusive work environment, flooded their social media pages with Black and brown faces, extolled allyship, and put on socially distanced town halls on race.

Rita Omokha, “VR Trainings Are Not Going to Fix Corporate Racism,” Wired, May 26, 2021

Ernest Owens, a 28-year-old Black journalist, questions the concept of whites as “allies.” While many have good intentions, he said true allyship—supporting Black businesses, deeply exploring personal bias and ferreting out ways that white privilege contributes to persistent racism—must happen in order to genuinely stand in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed.

Deepti Hajela and Leanne Italie, "Dear white people: Being an ally isn’t always what you think," AP News, June 13, 2020

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