Printable Version
Pronunciation: kên--ti-nayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To string together related objects, to connect a chain of items together.

Notes: Today's Good Word is connected to the image of a chain, a line of items, each connected to what precedes and succeeds it. This word comes with a panoply of the usual derivations from Latinate verbs. A person who concatenates is a concatenator. The noun is concatenation. This may refer to a concatenative (the adjective) process or the result, as a concatenation of rail cars.

In Play: Any string of things related to each other qualifies as a concatenation: "The elephants concatenated themselves into a train by each of them holding the tail of the one before it with its trunk." However loosely, any connected string of related objects makes up a concatenation: "Farley's presentation was less an argument for reducing everyone's salary except the president's than a series of loosely concatenated bits of data leading away from his intended conclusion."

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin concatenatus "linked together", the past participle of concatenare "to link together," made up of com- "together with" + catenare, a verb from catena "a chain". By the time catena reached Old French it had become chaeine, which English borrowed and polished into chain. The original Latin word, catena, seems to have developed from the sense of "rope" or "string", for the root appears to have been Proto-Indo-European kat- "to twist". The only other word that might be related is Latin cassis "snare, hunting net" (possibly from cat-sis). It is otherwise difficult to trace because kat- also meant "cat" in PIE and the two apparently got, well, twisted in the course of Indo-European history. (Let's concatenate here this note of exceptional gratitude to Paul Ogden, who has also edited the Good Word every day for the past five years.)

Dr. Goodword,

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