Printable Version
Pronunciation: dee-fib-bri-layt-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An electric shock machine that stops fibrillation, the rapid, random twitching of the fibers of the heart that prevents proper beating.

Notes: Today's word comes from the world of medicine with a large family in tow. A fibril is a small fiber or strand in striated muscle tissue. It has several adjectives, fibrillous and fibrillar among them. The verb is fibrillate "to twitch rapidly without movement" referring to muscle tissue. The nouns are fibrillation and defibrillation.

In Play: We hope you will have no need for a defibrillator, but if you should, we hope one is nearby: "Amelia was clinically dead for a few seconds when her heart stopped beating, but someone saw a defibrillator on the wall and used it to restore her to the living." The older we get, the less we think about romance and the more we think about things like defibrillators.

Word History: This medical term is a creation of the prefix de- "reverse the action" + fibril, the diminutive of Latin fibra "fiber" + the suffix -ate + the agentive suffix -or "that which does something". The origin of fibra is something of a mystery. Some etymologists trace it back to a root fid- from Latin findere "to split"; others, to filum "thread". Both these explanations are fraught with problems.

Dr. Goodword,

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