• acme •
æk-mee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The highest point, the peak or culmination of development.
Notes: Today's word is a lexical orphan without adjective, adverb, or verb forms. However, Greek acme was miscopied by Latin scribes as acne, and this variant became the word for those little points of infection on the faces of adolescents. We might consider acne a step-brother of today's Good Word.
In Play: This word has been used as the commercial name of so many companies and products that today it carries with it a sense of the plain and ordinary despite its original meaning. It is now the John Doe of commercial names: "Let's say you want to sell some product, let's say Acme widgets, in this market; where would we begin?" This does not mean that it has not lost its original meaning: "When Barry Moore was at the acme of his career, he made a million dollars a picture."
Word History: Today's Good Word is, as pointed out above, a simple mistransliteration of Greek akme "point, peak". The Greek word is based on an ancient Proto-Indo-European root ak- "sharp, pointed", a root also found in Greek akis and Latin acus "needle". The Latin root is visible in words like acupuncture, acuity, and acute, all borrowed from Latin. In Old English the same root showed up as ecg "sharp side", which today is edge. In Old Norse, it was eggja "to incite, goad", something you would do with a pointed object. This word was borrowed by English from its cousin language as (to) egg (on). (Today we offer thanks to the sharp mind of Perry Dror, now at the acme of his career in the Alpha Agora.)
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