hematite (hēməˌtīt)

Hematite, an important component of iron, is responsible for the many red pigments found on Earth.

Recently, a young speller reached out to me to ask a question about the word “hematite.”

Hematite literally means “blood stone.” The word contains the Greek root hemato- meaning blood and the Greek suffix -ite*, commonly used for minerals and rocks. The combining forms for blood also include hema- and hemo-.

An important rule in spelling is that, when combining roots, you shouldn’t have random letters left over. If we break the word hematite down using hemo- or hema-, then we would be left with -tite as the ending. The root/suffix -tite does not exist. This is the first clue that you’ve broken down the word wrong.

The more roots you study, the better you’ll be able to recognize them in the words you come across every day. I hope this insight is helpful to those of you studying for your regional competitions or the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

* -ite can also be used to indicate a person belonging to or associated with a place, tribe, leader, system, etc. such as in the words: Israelite, Londonite, and Lincolnite.

ouroboric (ôr-ə-bôr’-ĭk)

An ouroboros is a snake that eats its own tail. (photo from shutterstock)

Recently I read an article in CSO Magazine about how Nestlé is finally converting its packaging to recycled plastics. By continuing the ouroboric cycle of “make, use, reuse, remake, recycle,” companies can minimize waste and emissions that are harmful to the environment. While these cycles can be positive, they can also have negative consequences. Society’s focus on social media can often be an ouroboric cycle that leads to hours of lost time.

Ouroboric is an adjective meaning “self consuming” (Wiktionary). The word ouroboric actually comes from the Greek phrase “drakon οὐροβόρος” (ouroboros). Drakon refers to a serpent-like dragon. The word ouroboros comes from the Greek root oura meaning tail and bora meaning food. Ouroboros literally means a snake that eats its own tail (for food or otherwise).

The word ouroboros has a long history in mythology. In Egypt, the ouroboros symbolized the beginning and end of time, and was associated with the god of the Sun (Ra). It most famously appears in Norse mythology as the legend of the Midgard Serpent, the son of Loki and the sworn enemy of Thor.

Jörmungandr (or the Midgard Serpent) is a giant snake that encircles Midgard/Earth and is so long that he ends up swallowing his own tail in an effort to cling to the world. Jörmungandr symbolizes never-ending suffering. Over time and across religions, the ouroboros has come to represent eternity, the end of the world, or the schism of birth and death.

origami (ȯr-ə-ˈgä-mē)

"Hojyo Takashi's Violinist" by Joey Ilagan.

Hello everyone!

For the last two weeks, I was at the Ohio State University studying Linguistics as part of their Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars, also known as SLIYS (pronounced SLICE).

It was a great opportunity to learn about the sounds of languages, the meaning and structure of words, and different writing systems. I also learned about how linguists gather data about languages through consultations with a native speaker of a foreign language. During my first week, I worked with a native speaker of Farsi. I had to figure out linguistic rules, morphosyntactic agreement, and how to create consonant and vowel charts for Farsi. It was particularly challenging because our consultant was not allowed to speak English on the first day. I also learned about many other languages such as Greek, Japanese, and Tagalog.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a couple of Japanese words and talk about rendaku – a linguistic phenomenon that occurs in the Japanese language.

Most everyone is familiar with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into beautiful figures. The word origami is a compound word that consists of the Japanese word ori meaning fold and kami meaning paper.  Yes, you read that correctly. Logically, the word should be ori-kami, not ori-gami. Here’s where rendaku comes in.

The reason the word is ori -gami and not ori-kami is because of rendaku. Rendaku occurs when the second part of a compound word changes from a voiceless consonant to a voiced consonant. If you can feel a vibration in your throat when you say a certain consonant, that means it is voiced. If you cannot feel the vibration in your throat, that means that the sound is voiceless.

In this example, the k-sound in kami becomes a g-sound when it is added to ori. Below is a chart of other sounds that can be changed:

K ———–> G

T ———–> D

CH ———> J

S ———-> Z

Rendaku doesn’t always occur. For example, when the first word ends with an voiceless sound, rendaku usually doesn’t happen.

I look forward to sharing more linguistics-related posts as I delve deeper into the field! Please comment and let me know if you enjoyed this post.

Name That Animal: Challenge #9

What would you name this unusual creature? Image from Twitter @animalhybrids

It’s been a while since my last Name That Animal Challenge, so here it is!

Pretend that you are a scientist and you have just discovered this new species and you have the privilege of naming it. Scientists usually name new species by using Greek or/and Latin roots because the prefixes, stems, and suffixes are like building blocks that can be utilized in countless ways.

Your challenge is to name the unique animal in the picture above using your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. Keep in mind that you can use characteristics like size, color, or shape to name this animal. Feel free to search my blog to find root words to help you. I’ve provided you a list of roots with their definitions to get you started.

 

Greek:

branchio-                gills

-cephal-                    head

cerato-                      horn

ichthy-                      fish

-morph-                   form, shape

rhino-                       nose

 

Latin:

pisci-                         fish

-iform                       shape              

-corp-                        body

-capit-                       head

 

The letter “o” is the most common way to link Greek roots, and the letter “i” is used to link Latin roots.

My sister would name this unique creature biceratoichthyomorph. What would you name it? I’m looking forward to reading all the fabulous names you come up with so don’t forget to leave a comment!

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4Name That Animal Challenge #5, Name That Animal Challenge #6, Name That Animal Challenge #7, and Name That Animal Challenge #8.

araçari (ärəˈsärē/ärəˈkärē)

Hi everyone!

When my family was in Costa Rica during spring break, we had a chance to visit the Toucan Rescue Center near San Jose. The Rescue Center cares for injured animals and in some cases, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild. The Rescue Center doesn’t just limit its efforts to toucans as its name suggests but also, sloths, owls, and monkeys.

The common name for the toucan featured in today’s post is Collared Araçari. Araçaris are small brightly colored toucans that belong to the genus Pteroglossus.

The genus name Pteroglossus comes from the Greek roots pter- meaning wing/feather and -gloss meaning tongue/language. Unfortunately, my pictures do not show the feathery tongue of the toucan. However, feel free to do a simple internet search to convince yourself that they do indeed have feather-like tongues!

The species name of this araçari is Torquatus. A torque (or torq/torc) is a twisted metal necklace worn by ancient Gauls, Germans, and many other ancient cultures. Torque comes from the Latin verb torquere meaning to twist or turn. If you look closely at the pictures of the araçari, you will notice a beautiful ring resembling a torq around its body.

The ‘Snettisham Great Torc’, is a treasure of the ancient world. It is made from an alloy of gold, silver and copper, and weighs over 1 kg. Image from http://www.britishmusuem.org

Can you think of any other words that contain the roots mentioned in this post? Be sure to comment and let me know!

25k milestone

A few days ago, I was thrilled to see that the word explorer had reached 25,000 views! Thank you for all of the visits, comments, likes, and follows!

Summer vacation officially started today – I have a lot of ideas for blog posts and I look forward to exploring new words with you this summer.

For more specific statistics on thewordexplorer, visit my About page!

florisugent (flōrə¦süjənt)

Hi everyone, I hope you enjoyed last week’s post! I wanted to share more hummingbird pictures from Costa Rica with you so I thought I would continue our *trochiline theme.

Hummingbirds are florisugent – if we break down the word “florisugent” into its root components, we can easily decipher the meaning of this word. Flor is the Latin root for flower and -sugent is the Latin root meaning to suck. Florisugent means to suck nectar from a flower.

The long thin bills of hummingbirds are specially adapted to draw nectar from brightly colored flowers. In fact, the shape of a hummingbird’s bill determines what type of flower it can feed on. Even though a large percentage of their diet is nectar, hummingbirds also feed on various insects such as ants and flies.

Can you think of any other words that contain the Latin root flor? Comment and let me know!

*trochiline: relating to hummingbirds