• chimera •
Pronunciation: ki-mee-rê, kai-mee-rê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A fanciful illusion, a phantom, something hoped for but imaginary and not real. 2. (Medicine) An organism containing tissue from two genetically different species, a result of transplantation, grafting, or genetic engineering.
Notes: The spelling of today's Good Word above works around the world, but outside the US we sometimes encounter chimæra, so don't be surprised. The adjective for this word is chimeric, which may be extended to chimerical. Only this latter form goes into the making of the adverb, though: chimerically. You may use the a-e ligature (æ) in any of these, too, of course.
In Play: A chimera may be an imaginary, hoped-for person: "Mason Jarre keeps hoping for the perfect woman who will save him from all his woes, but she is just a chimera haunting the shambles of his mind." It may, in fact, be anything that holds out vain hope: "Debt reduction is a chimera pursued by many politicians in Washington."
Word History: Today's Good Word ended up in English as a result of a chain of borrowing from Greek to Latin, which later became French, and borrowed thence by English. The Greek word was khimaira, a fabulous fire-breathing monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. This word originally meant "one-year old goat", a sense that derived from "one-winter old goat", since the root, kheim- originally meant "winter". It appears in Greek as kheimon and Latin as heims, both meaning exactly that, "winter". The adjective derived from heims was hibernus "wintery, winter-", the word underlying hibernare "to spend the winter", the source of English hibernate. (If Colin Burt hoped to be acknowledged for suggesting today's Good Word, this expression of appreciation proves his hope was no chimera.)