• rivet •
Pronunciation: ri-vit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A short pin for holding together two sheets or other flat surfaces by beating out, bending, or spreading the end opposite the head. 2. (Verb) To join two sheets or plates with a rivet or rivets. 3. (Verb) To hold fast someone or completely lock their attention.
Notes: Rosie the Riveter was the star of a poster campaign to recruit women to the workforce during World War II. So, the verb rivet allows a personal noun. The adjective and action noun are, like indigenous English words, the present participle, riveting.
In Play: Rivets are not only used in erecting the steel skeletons of tall buildings: "The rivets in Shirley's blue jeans set off the alarm of the metal detector at the airport." In normal conversations the figurative sense of today's word is more often encountered: "The video clip of himself in the news riveted Barkley to the TV." Barkley found the story of his exploits riveting.
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French rivet "nail, rivet", a noun derived from river "to attach, clinch, cling". This word is akin to the English meaning of rive "split, smash, rip" because of the way you secure a rivet. This word was built on PIE rei- "to scratch, tear, cut", source also of Latin rima "rip", Swedish riva "to tear, scratch", German Riss "chink, crack" and ritzen "to to scratch, scarify", Norwegian ripa "to scratch", and English rip, ripple, and reap. Greek ereipein "to crash" seems also to share the same origin. (Many thanks to Barbara Beeton for recommending today's most riveting Good Word.)