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pullulate

Printable Version Pronunciation: pêl-yu-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To germinate or bud, send out buds or new shoots. 2. To propagate, breed, proliferate, reproduce rapidly. 3. To teem, swarm, crowd.

Notes: Today's borrowing from Latin now has a small family of derivations: the noun is pullulation and the adjective, pullulant, means "propagating, flourishing, budding". However, we should be able to navigate them all with no difficulty so long as we keep up with all the Ls.

In Play: The pullulation of wild animals in urban areas is often a cause of alarm: "The town fathers threatened strict measures to control the squirrels that were 'pullulating like rabbits' in the city park." Pullulation in the third sense above, however, usually doesn't raise an eyebrow: "The streets were pullulating with people enjoying the festivities of the annual woolly bear festival."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated in the Latin verb pullulare "to sprout", based on the noun pullulus "small young animal", the diminutive of pullus "young animal". Yes, you guessed it: pullus is the origin of English pullet. But the root goes back to Proto-Indo-European pau- "few, little, small" which also underlies Latin paucus "few, little", the origin of English paucity, Spanish and Italian poco, and Portuguese pouco. The stem with the L suffix (pau-l-) became Latin paulus "small" and was converted by English to foal. The same root turned up in Greek with the suffix D in pai(d)s "child" and paideia "education", spelled ped- in words borrowed by English, such as encyclopedia (= circle of learning) and pedogogy.

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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