• abscission •
æb-si-zhên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. The act of cutting something off. 2. The shedding of flowers, leaves, and fruit following the formation of scar tissue (the abscission layer) in a plant stem.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun of either the verb abscind or abscise, both of which mean "to cut off". The hair-dresser may abscind or abscise superfluous hair from your head in an act of design abscission. Do remember to use a double-s in this word; so many people forget the second [s] that some dictionaries have begun listing that spelling as a legitimate alternative.
In Play: Abscission is a rather lovely word, more poetic than fall off: "The ground beneath the dogwood trees appears to be snow-covered after the abscission of all their blossoms." Finding metaphorical situations where it might apply is easy: "Fenwick, I think mutual abscission is the best solution to the problems that have arisen in our relationship."
Word History: This Good Word comes to us from Latin abscissio(n) "breaking off", the noun from the verb abscidere "to break or cut off". The verb is made up of abs- "away, off" + caedere "to cut". You are right to suspect that it is related to scissors, but it also underlies the sculptor's chisel. Chisel was borrowed from Old French cisiel, the result of changes to Vulgar Latin *cisellus "cutting tool" brought on by historical changes in the French pronunciation system. Cisellus is the diminutive of a Latin noun based on caesus, the past participle of the same verb, caedere, which underlies abscission.
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