me-gê-chêrch • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A church with attendance of 2,000 or more; some 1,200 currently exist in the United States.
Notes: Mega- (meg- before a vowel) is almost a word, for terms like megachurch, megabucks, megaton behave much more like compounds than prefixed forms. Grammatically speaking, as a prefix, mega- should be limited to attachment to Greek stems as in megaphone and megacephalous "big-headed", but it attaches freely these days to native Germanic stems like church and ton, even agency and city, pretty much any other noun you would wish to attach it to: "Yeah, well all the megabytes in your new computer took a megabite out of my wallet!" It should be attached, however, not hyphenated or written as a separate word if possible.
In Play: The days of the quiet little country church seem to be fading into the background as larger and larger congregations are assembled by radio and TV: There are many hidden advantages in megachurches: "Leslie likes the megachurch she attends because she is less likely to be noticed when she doesn't show up."
Word History: The prefix mega- comes from Greek megas "great, large". The Greek word is one of many derived from the same PIE root, meg- "great", found in many Indo-European languages, including Scottish mickle "much, many", Russian mnogo "much, many", not to mention English much itself. In Latin it emerged as magnus "large", a word that appears in many English words and phrases such as Magna Carta, magnum, and magnify. Of course, Hindi maharajah is made up of maha "great", from the same root + rajah "king", a word from the same root as French roi "king" and royal "royal". (Today we thank Warren Bird megamuch for suggesting such a Good Word to us.)
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