• apterous •
æp-tê-rês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Without wings.
Notes: This word is so rarely used we can't seem to remember which suffix it contains; apteral and apteran mean the same thing. The last variant is used an adjective referring to a genus of wingless cockroach, Aptera. Recently, Aptera has been adopted as the name of a new three-wheeled electric automobile.
In Play: This word is used mostly in biological discussions of insects: "It is easier to rid your house of apterous insects than any of the winged varieties." However, we may play around with it: "Your idea for helicopter ejection seats is apterous; it just won't fly."
Word History: Today's Good Word was a gift from ancient Greek, where it was spelled apteros, created from a(n) "no, without" + pteron "wing, feather"+ -os, an adjective suffix. Pteron came from PIE pet-/pot- "fly, flow" + -er/-or, a common noun-maker in PIE, preserved today in most IE languages. Since [p] became [f] and [t] became [th] in Germanic, we are not surprised to find feather in English, but Danish fjer, German Feder, Swedish fjäder, and Dutch veder all underwent further changes since Proto-Germanic. We find the same PIE word underlying Greek potamos "river", Sanskrit patati "flies", Latvian putns "bird", Russian and Serbian ptica "bird", Polish ptak "bird", and Czech pták "bird". (Now, a double 'thank-you' to Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira for his long-term service on our editorial board and sharing today's extremely interesting Good Word with us.)
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