• ziggurat •
Pronunciation: zig-U-raht • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A rectangular stepped tower with successive stages smaller than the one below it, usually with a temple atop the last. Ziggurats are first attested in the late 3rd millennium BC in Mesopotamia and probably inspired the biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
Notes: I take it that today's contributor suggested this word as a challenge to my example-making ability. This word is so bizarre in its origin and with the narrowest of meanings, I must say I only reluctantly accept the challenge.
In Play: Here is an example taken from the printed word as late as 1979 in the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts: " His Dallas Chapel in the form of a spiral ziggurat . . . borrows quite directly from the ninth-century minaret at Samarra." Now for the real test—a figurative example: "The dinner was quite successful, but Emily dreaded facing the ziggurats of dirty saucepans back in the kitchen." Another, suggested by Chris Stewart: "Bunny Rabbett attended the gala with hair coifed into a ziggurat of monumental proportions."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Akkadian ziqqurratu "temple tower", from zaqaru "to build high". It is an East Semitic word zqr "to build high". Apparently, either it does not appear in Arabic or Hebrew or it appears with the same meaning. (At this point we must thank David Myer for today's rather bizarre word and the challenge it brought with it.)