• nidus •
Pronunciation: nai-dês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Medicine) The central or focal point of infection. 2. (Biology) The nest in which insects and spiders deposit their eggs. 3. The point of origin of development.
Notes: Here is a word that has escaped the surly bonds of science to enter the world of general vocabulary. It brought an adjective with it, nidulant, now a lexical rarity.
In Play: This word is so relevant today, I'm surprised we don't meet it more often: "The nidus of the COVID (SARS-CoV-2) infection seems to be the lungs." Especially, since it is no longer the prerogative of science: "The new house seemed to be haunted by a ghost whose nidus was the refrigerator."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the Latin word nidus "nest", taken wholesale from that language as English is wont to do from time to time. Nidus gave rise to French nid, Italian and Spanish nido, and Portuguese ninho in the course of things. Latin inherited nidus from a PIE derivation, ni-sed- "to sit down", combining ni- "down" + sed- "to sit". The original word has already reduced itself to nizdos before Latin borrowed it. Armenian nist "seat, place", Welsh nyth "nest", Cornish neyth "nest", and Breton neizh "nest" share the same source. In Russian it ended up as gnezdo "nest", and in English and German as nest and Nest, respectively. In ancient Sanskrit we find nidah "resting place." (Now, for a word of gratitude to Frank Myers, professor at NYU Stony Brook and a member of our happy crew since 2006, for offering up today's Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)