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synesthesia

Printable Version
Pronunciation: sin-is-theez-ee-yê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A sense association, a concomitant sensation, a sense impression produced by another sense, especially the perception of colors suggested by sounds.

Notes: We have an interesting discussion of this word in the Agora of 2005. (Sorry it took so long.) The adjective accompanying this noun is, as expected, synesthetic. In British English it is spelt synaesthesia.

In Play: Today's suggestion comes from someone who perceives February as red, March as blue, and April as yellow. She also pictures summer down a hill at the bottom of the year with fall on its way back up to the apex, which is December/January. Synesthesia's scientific basis is dubitable, though an intense curiosity about what goes wrong with the brain's wiring to produce anomalies like this is alive among students of the brain.

Word History: This word came through Modern Latin from Greek syn- "(together) with" + aisthes-"feeling" + the abstract noun ending -ia. It is related to anesthesia "lack of sensation" comprising a(n) "no un-" + aisthes- "feeling". Aisthesis was originally a compound of Proto-Indo-European root awis- "perception" + dho-/dhe- "to place". We have seen Greek syn- in many borrowed words such as sympathy "feeling with" and synchronize "time with". Its source is the same as Latin con-, as in borrowings congress "a come-together" and compassion "feeling with". PIE dho/dhe- went into the making of English do and deed. PIE awis- had a variant au-, which we find in the Latin borrowings auditory, audience, and auditorium. In courts we hear its progeny in oyez, a word heard repeated three times before the judge steps into the courtroom. It goes back to the day when English courts were conducted in French, for it is the imperative voice of Norman (Old) French oyer "to hear". It is sometimes translated as, "Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!" (I can smell another excellent Good Word when I receive an e-mail from Jackie Strauss, who most lately suggested today's.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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