• drone •
Pronunciation: dron • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun; Verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) The male bee, which is stingless and has only one monotonous job: fertilizing the queen. 2. (Noun) A drudge, a person who does tedious menial work. 3. (Noun) An unpiloted aircraft operated by remote control. 4. (Verb) To make a low, dull, monotonous humming sound. 5. (Verb) To speak in a monotonous, low, methodical, plodding, deliberate, drawn-out tone.
Notes: Today's Good Words are a twofer: two words for the price of one—a very reasonable price, at that. The family of the verb drone is the ordinary cast of characters: droning, the adjective and noun, and droned, the past tense adjective. As for the noun drone, dronage has been used a time or two as the state of a human drone as, "When she stepped into his life, she interrupted his dronage at the office."
In Play: What convinced me to work up today's Good Words was the ease with which I could think of a sentence using both words: "The senator from Kentucky droned on for thirteen and a half hours about the US drone program." The US drone program involving pilotless aircraft focused on members of the Al Qaeda leadership along the Pakistan border, is much in the news today.
Word History: Although the twofer offer still stands, both words seem to have originated from one source: the name of the male honeybee. His wings make the dull continuous noise that sounds much like that of a long, boring speech. His job is also a boring one that could be carried out unpiloted (without a brain). The original word drone has been in English since at least 1000 AD. Its earliest appearance was as Old English dran. We can find evidence of it in other Germanic languages, for example, German dröhnen "to boom". Some think it originated as an onomatopoetic imitation of the actual buzzing of the male bee, but that is the explanation of buzz! (Not to drone on about it, but at this point we must thank Patricia Waddy for suggesting this word, just as Ange Bunch was looking for it in the Alpha Agora.)