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tsunami

Printable Version Pronunciation: su-nah-mee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An gigantic seismic wave caused by a cataclysmic impact on the ocean, such as a landslide, meteorite, earthquake, or volcano. This impact emits enormous vibrations just beneath the ocean surface that emerge as waves 20-40 feet high—or higher—when they collide with land.

Notes: Tsunami is today's word but it is not at all a good one these days. It is a word that meant wide-spread pain and suffering at least 8 times in the 1990s, as major tsunamis hit countries like Japan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Peru. Now we have seen 4 more since 2000. The actual size of a tsunami is relative to the impact that causes it. In 1958 a landslide of about 50 million cubic yards of rock and earth set off a tsunami roughly 4/10 of mile high in remote Lituya Bay, Alaska Anything like or related to a tsunami is tsunamic which implies an adverb, tsunamically.

In Play: I'm not a tidal waveWe have, unfortunately, seen and heard this word in play too much over the holidays, as tsunamis from a submarine earthquake off the coast of Sumatra pounded hundreds of beaches throughout Southeast Asia and as far west as India, 1000 miles away. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the 10s of thousands who lost family and/or homes to this horrific tsunamic disaster. To express that sympathy, the staff at alphaDICTIONARY have chosen this word as the Word of the Year 2004.

Word History: Today's word comes directly from a Japanese compound noun made up of tsu "port, harbor" + nami "wave". These harbor waves have been confused with tidal waves in the past. They have nothing to do with tides or harbors, however, but are caused by enormous impacts on the ocean as described above. Click here for more information on tsunamis.

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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