Podcast bezoar

Printable Version
Pronunciation: bê-zor or bee-zor Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A hard stone-like object (calculus) composed of indigestible materials such as hair, vegetable fibers, and various other objects that form in the stomachs of some animals, especially ruminants and occasionally in humans. 2. Because bezoars in the past have been considered an antitoxin for poisons, today's Good Word may also refer to an antidote for poison or magical elixir.

Notes: Don't throw away your cat's hairballs: they may have magical powers! A bezoar, however, usually solidifies into something more like a kidney stone, also called a concretion or calculus. The adjective from this noun requires a transitional D, bezoardic, but it may also serve as a noun meaning "antidote for poison".

In Play: Today's word is not a particularly pretty one and, considering its grimy history, you probably wouldn't want to whisper through the candlelight, "I'm the bezoar of all your problems," to your true love. You probably should stick with the original meaning: "The dumplings I ate for dinner are sitting in my stomach like a couple of bezoars."

Word History: Today's Good Word made a long and treacherous journey to its current position in the English vocabulary. English, of course, borrowed it from Old French. French had whittled it down from the Medieval Latin phrase lapis bezoarticus "stone antitoxin (= antitoxin stone)". The Latin term here for "antitoxin" was not Latin at all but borrowed from Arabic bAzahr which, in turn, was borrowed from Persian paadzahr. This Persian word is made up of pAd- "protecting (against)" + zahr "poison", and should not be confused with baazaar "market", from which English derives its bazaar. (An interesting side note: the Persian word pAd- derives from the same PIE root as English food and foster. PIE [p] became [f] in Germanic languages like English.)

Dr. Goodword,

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