• hurricane •
hêr-ê-kayn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A tropical cyclone from 50 to 1000 miles in diameter with winds over 74 miles per hour (mph) that circulate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
Notes: Today's word has an interesting synonym subject to an odd set of regional restrictions. Major tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans are hurricanes, but in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans they are known as typhoons. If their winds are less than 39 miles per hour, they are merely tropical depressions. They become tropical storms when the wind speed exceeds 39 mph, but if their winds exceed 74 mph, they become typhoons or hurricanes, depending on their location.
In Play: We thought today's word appropriate for the middle of the hurricane season. We have already suffered two hurricanes this year, Irene and Lee, though when Lee finally hit land, it was no more than a tropical storm. Though hurricanes tend to lay waste to whatever humans create in their paths, meteorologists see so many human characteristics in them that they are given human names. Metaphorically, today's word may refer to anything that is devastating, "Go clean up your room; it looks like a hurricane hit it."
Word History: Today's word comes from Spanish huracán, itself borrowed from Taino, an Arawakan language originally spoken in the Bahamas. Hurákan meant "center of the wind" in Arawakan, from hura "wind" + kán "center," akin to Arawakan kulakani "thunder." It may also have also been influenced by Hurakan, the ancient Mayan god of wind and storm, whose name means "one-legged" in Mayan.
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