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Pronunciation: dê-zæs-têr, dis-æs-têr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A catastrophe, calamity, an event that causes great damage. 2. A total failure as in, "The party was a complete disaster."

Notes: We are in the midst of a global health and economic disaster, while the US is in a political one. We thought it an appropriate moment to explore this word. The adjective is disastrous and its adverb is disastrously. (Notice the loss of the E.)

In Play: One of the aspects of disasters that never escapes notice is that it brings those affected closer together in mutual sympathy. (Every cloud has a silver lining.) We do have the one-liners to cheer us up, like the one about the woman who backed into the propeller of an airplane. The result? Disaster!

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Middle French désastre, borrowed from Italian disastro. This word originally meant "ill-starred", comprising dis- + astro "star". Italian astro is a reworking of Latin astrum "star, constellation", from the same source as Greek astron "stars": PIE ster- "star". Of course, English star and German Stern come from the same ultimate source. Ditto Latin stella "star", which underlies the English borrowing stellar. Latin aster "Michaelmas daisy", borrowed by English wholesale to name a totally different type of flower, came out of the same PIE word. (Our old friend and veteran contributor Jackie Strauss thought that since today's Good Word is on all our minds, it would be timely to explore its name.)

Dr. Goodword,

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