• cymotrichous •
sai-mah-trê-kês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Curly-headed, having wavy hair.
Notes: Occasionally we like to examine a perfectly useless word just to remind us of the boundless richness of the English vocabulary. Today's Good Word is such, an adjective from the noun cymotrichy "curly-headedness". It is, of course, the medical term for curly-headed and raises, yet again, the question of why doctors need a discrete and arcane language all to themselves.
In Play: We're not suggesting you say things like this: "Oh, honey, just look at that cute cymotrichous little boy over there!" (But if you like attention, this is a real attention-grabber.) This is a term whose use is best restricted to conversations with MDs: "Dr. Procter, I was very cymotrichous before I started taking the medicine you prescribed. What happened?"
Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound noun made up of two Greek words: kyma "wave, something swollen" + thrix, tricho- "hair". This is the same word that underlies trichinosis, the disease we once caught from undercooked pork. This disease is caused by a hair-like baccilus, trichina, whose name is based on the same root, trich-. Kyma comes from the verb kyein "to be pregnant" + -ma, a noun suffix. The Proto-Indo-European root keu- "swell(ing)" had a split personality, referring to both concave and convex swellings. In Latin this root turned up as cavus "hollow" which found its way into English cave, cavern, cavity, and concave.
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