• jinx •
Pronunciation: jinks • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An evil spell or streak of bad luck caused by someone or something. 2. The person or thing causing such an evil spell or streak of bad luck.
Notes: You may still encounter this word spelled jynx from the Modern Latin rendition of the older Latin form (see Word History). The plural today is jinxes. The noun may be used freely as a verb, as to jinx the proceedings with a black cat.
In Play: Las Vegas casinos once hired 'coolers' to walk around the floor and jinx the winning streaks of gamblers. William Macy played a cooler in a 2003 movie by the same name. But you don't have to be a professional to be a jinx: "Mick Stupp is a jinx—he's a good player, but any team he plays on always loses." In fact, people aren't the only jinxes: "Lorelei jinxed the meeting by wearing her unlucky shoes."
Word History: The modern form of today's Good Word came from Latin iynx "wryneck", an Old World woodpecker (Jynx torquilla or Jynx ruficollis) with the ability to twist its neck in contortions. This ability quickly brought it to the attention of witches, who used it in creating their charms and spells. At some point, this ingredient of the spell came to be the name of the spell itself. Latin borrowed the word from Greek iunx, but no one knows where the Greeks obtained it. Otherwise reliable sources have suggested that it was derived from the Greek verb iuzein "to call, cry", but neither the spelling nor meanings work out for this hypothesis. (We would not like to jinx our series by forgetting to thank Perry Dror of the Alpha Agora for suggesting—sometime in the past—that we add this word to our Good Word series.)