• stamina •
Pronunciation: stæ-mê-nê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass & plural
Meaning: 1. [Plural] The plural of stamen (stamens is also OK): the male organs of seed flowers. 2. [Plural] The original basic elements of the constitution of anything; the rudiments or germs of anything. 3. [Singular] Bodily constitution, lasting strength, the ability to use one's strength for a considerable period of time. 4. [Singular] Durability, as the stamina of steel or plastic.
Notes: The difference between the singular stamina and strength is that stamina refers to the durability of strength and for that reason it is often used to mean "durability" alone. There are two adjectives, staminal, referring to strength, and staminate, referring to the stamens of flowers. To invest something or someone with stamina is to staminate them, a Good Word we seldom hear.
In Play: We find durable strength in many places, where it is good and where it is bad: "I cannot believe the stamina of Lucille's jaws; if gossip were money, she would be a billionaire." However, we can still use this very interesting word in the plural, referring to 'the basics': "Felix has all the stamina for a good executive but he wastes them on the wrong pursuits." (Notice the pronoun 'them'.)
Word History: Did you know that, like opera and opus, stamina is the plural of stamen? Well, now you do for sure. Amaze your colleagues at school or work with this tidy insight. In Latin, stamen historically referred to the warp, the threads that run lengthwise a piece of woven cloth, through which the woof threads are woven. However, it was also used to refer to the thread spun by the fates at birth that determines the longevity of the baby, so it came to mean "a vital force determining longevity". The stationary warp threads on a loom determine the basic character of the woven fabric, so why not the fabric of our character, which is our strength?