• geriatric •
Pronunciation: je-ri-æt-rik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to old people 2. Outdated, decrepit, run-down.
Notes: This adjective may be used as a countable noun, as "Geriatrics were given preference to receive the vaccine." The study of geriatrics is, well, geriatrics and a specialist in the study of geriatrics is a geriatrician. A related field is gerontology. Geriatrician usually refers to a physician who treats the diseases of old age, while a gerontologist studies the process of ageing.
In Play: Geriatric is most often used as an adjective: "Hennessey was lucky to have a geriatric hospital in the area." The second sense of this word is usually applied humorously: "Herschel drives a geriatric car, most appropriate for a man his age."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from a Latinized form of Greek geras "old age" + iatrikos "of a physician", itself from iatros "physician, healer". This word is the personal noun created from iatreuein "to treat medically". Geras was handed down from PIE gere- "to grow old"; wake up", source also of Sanskrit jagarti "awakes". Greek geron(t-) "old man" shares the same origin and went into the making of gerontology. Iatreuein is of uncertain origin. It had been traditionally related to iaino "heat, warmth, cheer". This word is probably from a PIE word meaning "enliven, animate", for we find a relatable word, isanyati "urges" in Sanskrit. However, no trace of it appears in any other Indo-European language, so the evidence is sketchy, to say the least. (Gratitude should now be accorded William Hupy, a prominent alphaDictionary wordmaster, for bringing today's very topical Good Word to our attention.)