S is for…

squirrel

Well, dear readers, April is finally here. Unfortunately, my backyard is still covered in snow. So, in an attempt to cheer myself up I thought I’d focus on my Vocabulary Series and bring you some of the best words beginning with the letter S.

I think this was the toughest choice yet. There are so many superb and scintillating choices. Words like scissors, snuggle, soap, slither, and squalid, just to name a few. After much agonizing, I managed to select three scrumptious words for you.

The first word I chose is a great adjective, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also sounds a lot like the behaviour it’s used to describe.

Salacious (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the 1660s. Comes from the Latin word salax (from the genitive form salacis), meaning lustful. Likely originated from the Latin salire, meaning to leap, as in a male animal leaping on a female in a sexual advance.

Definition:  Lustful or lecherous; having undue or indecent interest in sexual matters; tending to cause sexual desire.

Example:  Buffy stared at Angel, a salacious look in her eyes. As he moped about his vampire nature, she thought about getting him out of his shirt.

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This next word I chose especially for one of my friends. You know who you are. This animal is disliked by some, but I love watching them frolic in my backyard and figure out new ways to get at my squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Squirrel (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in the early 1300s. Comes from the Anglo-French esquirel, which came from the Old French escurueil, meaning squirrel or squirrel fur. This, in turn, came from the Vulgar Latin scuriolus, which is a variant of the Latin scurius, both meaning squirrel. (Squirrels belong to the Family Sciuridae.) The Latin came from the Greek skiouros, which literally means “shadow-tailed” and is a combination of skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. Oura comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ors, meaning buttocks or backside.

As a side note, the Old English word for squirrel was acweorna, which became aquerne in Middle English, before it was replaced with squirrel. Is it just me or does acweorna sound kind of like acorn?

Definition:  Any of a variety of slender, agile, arboreal or ground-dwelling rodent with a long bushy tail and furry coat, typically feeding on nuts and seeds.

Example:  Fortunately, the vampire squirrel was only interested in sucking the life out of acorns, and the occasional tomato.

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The bonus word this week is something we couldn’t live without. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to say!

Synapse (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in English in 1899, from medical Latin. It was introduced by English physiologist Sir Michael Foster at the suggestion of the classical scholar, Arthur Woollgar Verral. Comes from the Greek synapsis, meaning conjunction, which comes from synaptein, meaning to join or bind together. Synaptein combines syn-, meaning together, and haptein, meaning to fasten.

Definition:  A junction between two nerve cells (neurons), consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass.

Example:  They waited for Igor’s synapses to start firing. It was a long wait.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Linking up with the Moonshine grid over at yeah write.

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Image credit: Joanna RedesiukPhotoxpress.com

 

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22 thoughts on “S is for…

  1. Excellent choice on using the word squirrel! I know a lot of sciurine facts, but was unaware the name essentially broke down to “shadow tail!” Thank you for enlightening me!

  2. Suzanne thank you for these interesting “S” words I think I like squirrel better than skiouros, or escurueil . I thoroughly enjoyed reading them, thank you for the definitions as well.

  3. I’ve never considered Igors to be slow in the thought departments. They always seem to be able to get out before the angry mob breaks down the door.

  4. I love how Old English can surprise you with a connection to a current word (like acorn). Most of the time it sounds nothing like modern English. I took a class on it in university and it was fascinating (but tough) to try and read the original Beowulf. Thanks for the great definitions and the laughs. Now if only I didn’t have to wait for all this snow to melt! 🙂

  5. I always love the Vocabulary Series… and when I saw ‘S’ I hoped for Strutz, but expected Suzanne. And since it’s Suzanne… of course the Squirrel is a Vampire.

  6. Ack, vampire squirrels? I think they are cute and entertaining, but will be sure to keep my distance… just in case 🙂 Great ‘s’ words – I like all of them!

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