feeding on blood, as a bat or insect.
Sanguivorous “feeding on blood” is a compound of the combining forms sangui- “blood” and -vorous “devouring.” Sangui- derives from Latin sanguis, of the same meaning, but the story does not stop there. Continuing a common pattern in the Indo-European language family, the Romans had two words for “blood”—sanguis and cruor—and while sanguis implicitly referred to blood inside the body, cruor referred to blood outside the body, particularly in violent contexts. In this way, it should come as little surprise that cruor is distantly related to English raw (Old English hrēaw) and Ancient Greek kréas “raw flesh,” while sanguis may be a compound of the Proto-Indo-European roots for “blood” and “to pour.” While cruor survives today to some extent in modern Romance languages, it is sanguis that serves as the root of most Romance words for “blood,” such as French sang, Italian/Portuguese sangue, and Spanish sangre. Sanguivorous was first recorded in English in the mid-1800s.
“In humans, anaphylactic shock can be fatal; in sanguivores, it’s less dangerous but still extraordinarily unpleasant. Garlic is to you as peanuts are to your cousin; I cannot overemphasize the importance of this—and it’s not just garlic, it’s several other members of the allium family to lesser extents .… Sanguivore just means ‘eater of blood’ .… The older term was hemophagous, but these days, all creatures who feed on blood are known as sanguivorous.”
Only three mammalian species are sanguivorous—that’s blood feeding—and they are all bats. Blood, apparently, is not that nutritious. It has almost no carbs, fats, or vitamins; its high iron levels can disrupt heart, liver, and pancreas function; its obscenely high protein and salt levels can cause renal disease if nitrogenous waste products build up. It contains pathogens. It clots. Vampire bats have some obvious adaptations to allow them to survive on their limited and macabre diet.
extremely hungry; famished; voracious.
Ravenous “extremely hungry” is a borrowing from Old French that derives ultimately from the Latin noun rapīna “plunder, robbery, pillage”; the sense shifted in Old French from “plunder” to describe people who are likely to plunder and then to the associated personality traits of plunderers, such as “violent” and “greedy,” and eventually came to mean “hungry.” Rapīna comes from the verb rapere “to seize,” which is the source of words such as rapacious, rapid, rapt, ravish, surreptitious, and usurp. A common misconception is that ravenous is related to raven, the black-feathered bird, but raven is of Germanic origin, from Old English hrǣfn, and may be a distant relative of Latin corvus “raven” and Ancient Greek kórax “raven, crow.” (In addition, despite the similar spelling and meaning, crow is not related to corvus—though crows and ravens are part of the genus Corvus.) Ravenous was first recorded in English in the late 1300s.
Locusts are ravenous eaters. An adult desert locust that weighs about 2 grams (a fraction of an ounce) can consume roughly its own weight daily. And they’re not picky at all.
The merest suggestion of mouth and I was ravenous—I filled the house with chocolate, chestnuts, strudel, blood sausage; I bathed in butter.
a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.
Revenant “a person who returns as a spirit after death” is a direct borrowing from French, in which the word is a present participle meaning “coming back, returning.” The infinitive, revenir, is a combination of the prefix re- “back, again” and venir “to come,” the latter from Latin venīre, of the same meaning. Venīre is the source of English terms such as adventure, avenue, convenient, eventual, and invention, all of which originally related to movement, gathering, or discovery (i.e., coming across something); the Latin verb derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root, gwā- “to go, come,” that gives us come, become, welcome, and the Ancient Greek-derived terms acrobat and basis (from baínein). Revenant was first recorded in English in the 1820s.
Greek literature has often referenced the rising of the undead, like in Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus sacrifices a ram and an ewe to convince the dead to appear for his service. Since the concept of death was viewed as more fluid than concrete in ancient Greece, the belief that the dead could rise as revenants to fulfill their own agendas or the agendas of a conjurer was not uncommon.
One afternoon I was over at my friend Rudd’s. We were in his studio, a rough space framed out above the garage. Rudd is a contractor and photographer, and we were looking at his landscape photos. We’d been talking about a picture of a barren tree in a field burning with red brush. I said something about haunted landscapes, revenants, and he grabbed a crate off a bookcase. ‘Now this here’ll haunt you. This is a real ghost from the past.’
Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox