• predator •
Pronunciation: pred-ê-têr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Any organism that lives by preying on and consuming other organisms. 2. A victimizer, someone who takes advantage of others using his or her position, special knowledge, or stature.
Notes: No, today's word does not refer to something that existed prior to (predates) something else but rather a creature that preys on others. Natural predators include flesh-eating animals like lions, hawks, and sharks. Unnatural ones include the predatory (the adjective) adults who try to seduce young people on the Web, a growing problem as the Web expands.
In Play: Until recently, when we thought of predators we thought of animals that live off the lives of other animals: "We felt quite safe camping in the woods at night; since we hadn't bathed in over a week, the predators left us alone." However, the anonymity of the Web has led to the spread of predatory behavior in adults who try to seduce our children on line: "My recently departed neighbor apparently was an Internet predator who entered the home of his intended victim to discover that her dad had trained a 400-pound gorilla to take care of her in his absence."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the English adaptation of Latin praedatorius "plundering" from the verb praedari "to plunder". This verb is based on praeda "booty, loot" from an earlier form prae "before" + hedari "grab, grasp". (Praeda devolved into prey in French.) Hedari derives from a Proto-Indo-European root, ghe[n]d- "grab, get" with a 'Fleeting N', an N that comes and goes without rhyme or reason. So this is the same root we see with the N in prehendere "grab, grasp", a word that underlies English prehensile and apprehend among others. The n-less version, ghed- came to English via Old Norse as get.
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