• deodorant •
dee-od-êr-rênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: A preparation to prevent or cover up an unpleasant odor
Notes: On a visit to the former Yugoslavia in 1964, I ran out of deodorant. I went to a cosmetics store and, since I didn't know the word, I just used deodorant pronounced the Serbian way, assuming deodorant to be an international word. But the saleslady was nonplussed. I then tried to describe deodorant and its use, when the saleslady interrupted and said, in Serbian, "Oh, you mean the substance for armpit stink!" In a cosmetic store. Todays' word comes with a verb, deodorize.
In Play: This word is used almost always literally: "Please tell Ivan Oder that his so-called 'natural' deodorant isn't working." However, metaphorical uses are not excluded: "What kind of deodorant will cover up the stench of this scandal!'
Word History: This word was formed in English from de- "un-"+ Latin odor "smell, scent" + -ant, an instrumental suffix. Latin created its word by taking the PIE root od- "to smell" and adding the Latin agentive suffix -or to it. The root also went into the making of Greek ozein "to smell", Armenian hot "air" and hotim "I smell", and Lithuanian uostyti "to smell". Among the Germanic languages we find Swedish os "fumes" and Danish os "smoke, smell", from older od-s-. PIE had another root od- which meant "hatred", which resulted in Latin odium. English borrowed this word along with odious. These PIE words may have been related, but etymologists have hesitated calling them the same word since smells may be pleasant or dreadful. (Today we thank Eric Berntson for recommending this rather fragrant Good Word.)
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