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Apr 14, 2008
This week's theme
Words made using combining forms

This week's words

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with Anu Garg

This week's words are created using combining forms. What are combining forms? You can think of them as the Legos of language.

As the name indicates, a combining form is a linguistic atom that occurs only in combination with some other form. This other form could be a word, another combining form, or an affix (a prefix or suffix). Unlike a combining form, an affix can't attach to another affix to form a standalone word by itself.

When coining a new word, these ready-made building blocks of the language come in handy. Let's say we need a new insult word, a fancy word to describe someone as brainless. We could start with ceno- (empty), add -cephalic (relating to the head) to it, and our new word is ready: cenocephalic.

This week we'll see words made using these combining forms: ceno- (empty), endo- (within), seti- (bristle), nocti- (night), and geo- (earth). Happy word crafting!


(SEN-uh-taf) Pronunciation Sound Clip

noun: A tomb or a monument in honor of a person (or a group) whose remains are elsewhere.

[Via French and Latin, from Greek kenotaphion, from kenos (empty) + taphos (tomb).]

Check out the pictures of cenotaphs around the world.

"Then I joined the throngs at the cenotaph inscribed NEVER AGAIN, at an eternal flame above a reflecting pool, and at the crane-festooned statue of Sadako Sasaki, a bomb victim who died at the age of twelve while attempting to fold a thousand paper cranes in the hope this would prolong her life."
Samuel Day Jr.; Two Hiroshimas; The Progressive (Madison, Wisconsin); Aug 1994.

See more usage examples of cenotaph in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


Having been unable to strengthen justice, we have justified strength. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662)

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