• sluice •
Pronunciation: slus • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A man-made water channel, sometimes controlled by a head valve. 2. (Noun) An act of drenching or rinsing with a sudden flow of liquid. 3. (Verb) Wash or flush with a flow of water.
Notes: This word's verbal sense surprised me. The number of examples of this usage was also a surprise. Notwithstanding the UI combination in its spelling and its origins (see Word History), today it is a legitimate English word. So, a sluice-keeper may be called a sluicer and the present participle, sluicing, functions as adjective and action noun.
In Play: The nominal sense is by far the more familiar: "The downspouts from the roof of Mortimer's house emptied into sluices he made of wood and tin that carried rainwater far away from the basement of his house." The verbal sense is less familiar to most of us: "In the fall, Mortimer sluices the gutters with lots of water to make sure they are clear."
Word History: Today's Good Word is an aphetic shortening of Old French excluse "sluice, floodgate" (Modern French écluse), inherited from Latin exclusa "shut-off". Exclusa is the feminine past participle of excludere "to exclude, shut out", used as a noun. This verb is composed of ex "(out) from" + the combining form of claudere "to close, shut", which French reduced to clore. The past participle of clore is clos, which English also clipped. Latin claudere, interestingly enough, came from PIE klau- "hook, peg", going back to time when people shut things with hooks and pegs. This word spread throughout IE languages, emerging in Latin clavis "key" and clavus "nail", Greek kleis "bar, bolt", Russian klyuch "key", German Schlüssel "key", and Lithuanian kliūti "to catch, get caught on". (Now, let's all e-tip our hats to Susan Maynard for recommending today's Good Word, the verbal sense of which is surprising.)