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effluvium

Printable Version Pronunciation: ê-flu-vee-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An exhaust of nauseating or noxious vapor or gas. 2. Any byproduct or waste from a manufacturing process that is ejected into the environment, a putrid or noxious effluent.

Notes: Because effluvium is an obvious borrowing from Latin that ends on -um, like datum and consortium, its plural is formed like the plural of those words by replacing the -um with -a: effluvia. The adjective is effluvial, as in the effluvial tailings from a mine. The neutral term for such an outflow, without the implication of noxiousness, is a close cousin of today's word, effluence.

In Play: Today's Good Word comes in handy when talking about pollution: "The effluvia from all the manufacturing plants along the river have devastated the fish population." However, don't forget the first meaning of this word, which could just as well apply to natural effluvia: "Cows and horses noisily emit a great deal of effluvium during their digestive processes."

Word History: This word came from Latin effluere "to flow out", based on ex "out of" + fluere "to flow". The X in ex 'assimilates' to some consonants when it is attached to them, that is, becomes the same sound. We see that not only in today's word, where X becomes F, but also in emigrate and elevate. English borrowed a small library of words based on Latin fluere, including influence, affluence, effluence, and confluence. The English word from the same Proto-Indo-European root as fluere is—would you believe it?— blow, not flow.

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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