• ocean •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The totality of salt water covering three fourths of the Earth's surface. 2. The five designated areas of this expanse: the Antarctic, Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. 3. A deluge, anything ostensibly boundless in quantity or expanse.
Notes: Today's Good Word is common enough and has wandered only a short distance from its original meaning. It comes with an adjective, oceanic, and several nouns. An oceanarium is a seawater aquarium that houses large oceanic inhabitants. An oceanaut is the underwater equivalent of an astronaut, an explorer of the seas as an astronaut explores outer space.
In Play: Earthlings gorge themselves on the ocean's bounty, but we are only beginning to test its power as a source of energy: "Researchers are now working to harness the power of the Gulf Stream for use as an alternative source of ocean energy." Of course, anything excessively large or numerous may be said hyperbolically to be oceanic: "Nada Farthingsworth fell headlong into the ocean of opportunities to lose money in Las Vegas."
Word History: Today's word was taken from Old French occean "ocean" (Modern French océan). French inherited it from Latin oceanus, which borrowed it from Greek okeanos. Okeanos referred to the great river which the Greeks presumed surrounded the disk of the Earth, as opposed to the Mediterranean, the "Middle Earth", sea. We don't know where this word came from, but it was personified in the Roman god Oceanus, son of Uranus and Gaia. It was originally called the ocean sea, translating Latin mare oceanum. Along the way through English the sea was dropped and the adjective became a noun. (An ocean of gratitude is owed Steve Hirsch for suggesting today's very beautiful Good Word.)
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