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Wordy Weekly XVI

Another medley this week. Greek up first:


i) NECROPHILIA: This gruesome word means literally ‘corpse love (including sexual)’, and that is how the Greek word breaks down.

νεκρος - corpse, dead body

φιλια - love, desire

One can also find, but much more rarely, necroerotic, which carries even stronger sexual overtones.

ii) NEOLITHIC: ‘from the new Stone Age’.

νεος - new

λιθος - stone

(one can find the Greek adjective λιθικος, but not in Classical Greek)

The opposite is palaeolithic for ‘Old Stone Age’. The prefix παλαιο-, from Greek adjective παλαιος, means ‘ancient, old, of former times.

These prefixes appear in several other words in English (including this week’s third word).

neonatal - newborn (a hybrid word, as the ‘natal’ part is Latin)

palaeontologist - study of the ancient earth through fossils

palaeobotany - study of ancient plant life

We also see the suffix ‘-lithic’ elsewhere: monolith/-ic, megalith/-ic, or even occasionally as a suffix lithograph, ‘writing on stone’.

iii) NEOTENY: ‘the continued possession of juvenile or youthful characteristics in adult life’.

neo- as we have just seen denotes ‘new’ or as in this case ‘young’. What about ‘-teny’?

τενειν - to stretch or extend

So, the word literally means ‘extended youth’.

(I would like to thank my dear husband for this entry. It was a NEW word to me. Pun intended)

iv) NOMOTHETIC: ‘to do with lawgiving, based on law’. What a great word and one you certainly don’t hear very often. It comes from Greek as follows:

νομος - law, custom

θετικος - fit for placing, laying down

(the adjective is from the verb τιθημι meaning ‘to place, put, set’)

The word, therefore, means literally ‘the setting down of law’.


i) NASCENT: ‘being born, coming into being, in the early process of formation’. The noun is the present participle of the Latin deponent verb ‘nascor, nasci, natus sum’ NASCENS (-natal comes from the past participle ‘natus’ and the adjective ‘natalis’ exists in Latin).

ii) NEUTRAL: ‘not taking sides’, ‘neither one thing nor the other’. The word comes from the Latin ‘NEUTER’, also meaning ‘neither, neither one thing nor the other’. The Latin third gender ‘neuter’ are words that are neither masculine nor feminine. The NEUTRON, the heavy electrically-neutral particle found in the nucleus of the atom, takes its name from the Latin ‘neuter’.

iii) NUCLEUS: ‘central part of a cell or atom’. ‘NUCLEUS’ is itself a Latin word that means ‘kernel’. The word comes from ‘nucula’, ‘little nut’, ultimately from the Latin NUX ‘nut’.

iv) NOTION: ‘idea, concept’ and it derives from ‘notio, notionis’, coming from the past participle of the verb ‘nosco, noscere, novi, notum’ – ‘get to know’. The verb is more commonly found in the compounded form ‘congnosco’, and this where we get the word ‘COGNITION’ (a contraction of CON-NOTION).

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