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Mar 27, 2017
This week’s theme
When etymology meets entomology

This week’s words
earwig

earwig
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What does a canopy have in common with a pavilion? Both words are derived from insects. A canopy is, literally, a bed with mosquito netting (from Greek konops: mosquito) and a pavilion is like a butterfly with his wings spread out (from Latin papilio: butterfly).

Sometimes people confuse the words etymology and entomology, but in this case they wouldn’t be wrong if they asked, for example: Could you tell me the entomology of the word canopy?

This week we have a set of words in which etymology meets entomology. We’ll look at five words that have connections with insects.

etymology: from Greek etymos (true)
entomology: from Greek entomos (notched, referring to an insect’s three sections) which we literally translated into Latin as insectum.

earwig

PRONUNCIATION:
(EER-wig)

MEANING:
noun: Any of various insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of pincers at the rear of the abdomen.
verb tr.: To influence or bias a person by insinuations.
verb intr.: To secretly listen to a conversation.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Old English earwicga (earwig), from ear + wicga (insect). From the ancient belief that this insect crawled into people’s ears to reach their brains. Earliest documented use: before 1000.

USAGE:
“Out there, where it counted, Judge Atlee called them fair and straight, regardless of how much he’d be earwigged.”
John Grisham; Sycamore Row; Doubleday; 2013.

“I stood for ages earwigging beside another mother lecturing her tiny sons.”
Janice Turner; The Fine Art of Showing Off Your Children; The Times (London, UK); Mar 9, 2017.

See more usage examples of earwig in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
History is a novel whose author is the people. -Alfred de Vigny, poet, playwright, and novelist (27 Mar 1797-1863)

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