me-gê-chêrch • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A church with attendance of 2,000 or more; some 1,200 currently exist in the United States.
Notes: Mega- (meg- before a vowel) is almost a word, for terms like megachurch, megabucks, megaton behave much more like compounds than prefixed forms. Grammatically speaking, as a prefix, mega- should be limited to attachment to Greek stems as in megaphone and megacephalous "big-headed", but it attaches freely these days to native Germanic stems like church and ton, even agency and city, pretty much any other noun you would wish to attach it to: "Yeah, well all the megabytes in your new computer took a megabite out of my wallet!" It should be attached, however, not hyphenated or written as a separate word if possible.
In Play: The days of the quiet little country church seem to be fading into the background as larger and larger congregations are assembled by radio and TV: One famous megachurch is the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, designed by Philip Johnson in 1980 for the televangelist Reverend Robert Schuller. Portions of the exterior walls open, allowing congregants to remain in their cars while viewing the worship service. There are many hidden advantages in megachurches: "Leslie likes the megachurch she attends because she is less likely to be noticed when she doesn't show up."
Word History: The prefix mega- comes from Greek megas "great, large". The Greek word is one of many derived from the same PIE root found in Indo-European languages, including Scottish mickle "much, many", Russian mnogo "much, many", not to mention English much itself. In Latin it emerged as magnus "large", a word that appears in many English words and phrases such as Magna Carta, magnum, and magnify. Of course, Hindi maharajah is made up of maha "great", from the same root + rajah "king", a word from the same root as French roi "king" and royal "royal". (Today we thank Warren Bird megamuch for suggesting such a Good Word to us.)
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