Word of the Day

Word of the day

⚛️ Today's Word was chosen in partnership with the Museum of Science as the Science Word Of The Week! ⚛️

horripilation

[ haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho- ] [ hɔˌrɪp əˈleɪ ʃən, hɒ- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goosebumps.

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Why the Museum of Science chose horripilation

Halloween is rapidly approaching, and you might wonder why horripilation happens when you watch scary movies. Watch the video below to hear more about horripilation from award-winning science communicator Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D.

More about horripilation

When delving into the history of horripilation, things become hairy rather quickly. The horri- part comes from a Latin verb meaning “to bristle,” and this verb is also the source of words such as horrendous, horrify, and horror. Unlike terror, which literally has to do with being frightened, the root of horror is all about hair standing on its end! In addition, the -pil- part of horripilation is a Latin stem meaning “hair.” Horripilation was first recorded in English in the 1650s.

EXAMPLE OF HORRIPILATION USED IN A SENTENCE

As the truck set off on the haunted hayride route, the riders experienced some horripilation in anticipation of the scares ahead.

FUN FACT ABOUT HORRIPILATION

The nervous system response that causes goosebumps is the same response that makes a cat puff up its tail or a porcupine puff out its quills when they are scared. Learn more fun facts at the Museum of Science.

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Word of the day

metamorphose

[ met-uh-mawr-fohz, -fohs ] [ ˌmɛt əˈmɔr foʊz, -foʊs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used without object)

to undergo or be capable of undergoing a change in form or nature.

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More about metamorphose

Metamorphose “to undergo a change in form or nature” is a back formation from the noun metamorphosis “a complete change in form.” As we learned from the recent Word of the Day defenestrate, a back formation is a word created from another by cutting off a suffix (or what seems to be a suffix) from the older word, such as the verb edit from the noun editor. The noun metamorphosis is a compound of the combining forms meta- “after, beyond” and morph- “form, structure,” which come from Ancient Greek metá “between, after” and morphḗ “shape,” respectively. Though linguists have tried to connect Ancient Greek morphḗ with its Latin equivalent, forma “form, model,” based on the words’ shared sounds, it remains unclear whether the resemblance is merely a coincidence. Metamorphose was first recorded in English in the 1570s.

how is metamorphose used?

A cellular-automata simulation involves a chessboardlike grid of squares, or cells, each of which is either empty or occupied by one of several possible components. At discrete intervals of time, each cell looks at itself and its neighbors and decides whether to metamorphose into a different component. In making this decision, the cell follows relatively simple rules, which are the same for all cells.

David Emmite, James A. Reggia, and Moshe Sipper, “Go Forth and Replicate,” Scientific American, February 1, 2008

Thanks to irrigation, thanks to the Bureau—an agency few people know—states such as California, Arizona, and Idaho became populous and wealthy; millions settled in regions where nature, left alone, would have countenanced thousands at best; great valleys and hemispherical basins metamorphosed from desert blond to semitropic green.

Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 1986
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Word of the day

uraeus

[ yoo-ree-uhs ] [ yʊˈri əs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

the sacred asp as represented upon the headdress of divinities and royal personages of ancient Egypt, usually directly over the forehead, as an emblem of supreme power.

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More about uraeus

Uraeus, “the sacred asp on ancient Egyptian headdresses,” comes from Late Greek ouraîos, of the same meaning. This ouraîos appears identical to Ancient Greek ouraîos, “of the tail,” but the two likely do not share a deeper origin; while ouraîos, “of the tail,” comes from ourá, “tail,” and is the source of the English combining form uro- (not to be confused with oûron, “urine,” the source of a different uro-), ouraîos, “uraeus,” comes from Egyptian y’rt, “rearing cobra,” which is also transliterated variously as iaret or jꜥrt. Though uraeuses is the standard plural, the alternative uraei appears in some texts. Uraeus was first recorded in English circa 1830.

how is uraeus used?

The uraeus had wide associations, of which one of the most basic was with the cobra goddess Wadjyt …. In addition, the uraeus was the most characteristic mark of the king. Thus the use of the uraeus by the queen may have carried a range of meanings.

Gay Robins, Women in Ancient Egypt, 1993

In the dim light of the inner temple, we received the symbols of the Pharaoh: the golden crook, the flail, the scepter, robes of linen from Lower Egypt, and ceremonial leather garments. Upon our heads were placed the uraeus of pure gold, Egypt’s guardian serpent.

Margaret George, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, 1997
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