dee-hi-sênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Gaping open, wide open. 2. (Botany) Bursting open at ripening to allow seeds to escape, as a plant with dehiscent pods.
Notes: Today's word is the adjective from the verb dehisce "to gape or burst open", as some seed pods, like those of the milkweed in the picture below, dehisce to release the seeds inside them. The noun is dehiscence. The trick is to remember the SC combination when spelling this word.
In Play: Although this word is used mostly in botany to describe seed pods and fruit, anything that can gape or pop open is potentially dehiscent: "The dehiscent mouth of Lydia Potts told Wendell that he probably shouldn't have told her his true age." And "anything" means anything: "Hiking to the top of Mount Upp, Lila found herself gazing into a lush, dehiscent valley below."
Word History: This word comes from the Latin verb dehiscere "to gape open" comprising de "from, out" + hiscere "to gape, yawn". Hiscere is a form of hiare "to yawn", whose past participle, hiatus, is pronounced [hai-ay-tÍs] in English and is used in the sense of a blank space or a gaping gap in a series. (Thanks and a tip of Dr. Goodword's hat to Katy Brezger for bringing today's Good Word to his attention in the Alpha Agora, where you can suggest words, too.)
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