• brisance •
Pronunciation: bri-zahns, bri-zawNs • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1.The violence of an explosion, explosiveness. 2. Volatility, high likelihood of explosion.
Notes: This word is the nominalization ('nounification') of the adjective brisant "shattering, explosive", used mostly in conversations about explosives, for instance, brisant materials or brisant chemicals like nitro-glycerin. Brisance is rarely used but, when it is, it is used in the sense of "volatility" as often as not.
In Play: As mentioned above this term turns up in discussions by scientists about explosives: "When blowing up stumps, a brisance meter comes in handy." However, this is a word with more promise than prominence: "Well, I would say Adam Bahm's main quality isn't brilliance, but brisance: he explodes when he doesn't get his way."
Word History: Today's Good word comes from French (where else?). It is the English nominalization of the French present participle, brisant, of the verb briser "to shatter". There is no clear evidence of the whereabouts of an ancestor of this word. Latin brisa is the refuse of grapes after they have been crushed. So, some etymologists have speculated the existence of a Latin verb brisare "to crush, trample", despite the absence of written evidence of such a word. Others have speculated that it was borrowed from Celtic, specifically Irish brissim "I break". Again no written evidence of such borrowing exists. (Let's all thank Monroe brisantly for proposing today's Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)