• ejecta •
i-jek-tê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Material forcibly thrown out, as from a volcanic or other type of explosion or meteoric impact.
Notes: Here is a word that has been hiding in the vocabularies of geologists and astronomists too long. Let's bring it out in the sunlight. It comes from the same source as English eject, so it will be easy to remember. It is a lexical orphan with no derivational family. Though plural in Latin, English treats this word as a mass noun with no plural.
In Play: This is how geologists have been using today's Good Word: "In Java the volcanic ejecta is not acidic, but rich in plant nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorus." Here is how I suggest we use it once liberated: "The remains of the ejecta from Henry's dropping his spoon in his soup were concentrated on his tie."
Word History: Ejecta is the plural of Latin ejectum "(that which is) cast out", the past participle of eicere "to cast out", made up of e(x) "out of" + the combining form of iacere "to throw, cast, hurl". Latin inherited its verb from PIE ye- "throw, hurl, fling", which turned up in Greek as hienai "to throw, send". We see evidence of this Greek word in the English borrowing catheter, borrowed directly from Greek katheter "a tube", from kat(a) "down" + hie- + -ter, a personal noun suffix. French changed all initial Is in Latin to Js, which is how Latin iacere became jeter "throw" in French. This is the word that underlies the English borrowings jettison "throw overboard" and jetsam "stuff thrown overboard". (Today's Good Word was yet another bit of ejecta from George Kovac, who has made a big splash over the years at alphaDictionary.com.)
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