Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis--payt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To disperse, scatter, to send in all directions. 2. To vanish by dispersing or scattering, or cause to vanish in this way.

Notes: In 1725 Alexander Pope translated a perfect physical example of dissipation in Homer's Odyssey as, "A lion . . . springs o'er the fence, and dissipates the fold." We in North America are entering that season of early morning mists dissipated by the rising sun. However, fortunes, too, may dissipate, as the bursting of the Great Recession recently reminded us. The noun from today's word is dissipation, and the adjective dissipative.

In Play: Today's Good Word is at home describing the physical world: "Maynard smiled as he watched the wind dissipate the leaves in his back yard and redeposit them on his neighbor's." It is equally equipped to describe abstractions such as, "Blanche's hopes for a peaceful evening dissipated when Harwood invited the boys over to watch the football game."

Word History: This word is built on Latin dissipatus, the past participle of dissipare "to scatter, disperse", made up of dis- "away" + supare "to throw". We find evidence of the root behind supare throughout the Indo-European languages: in Sanskrit svapu "broom", Russian sypat' "sprinkle" and rassypat' "disperse". It might have come to be sweep in English and schwappen "to swash" in German, too, but we expect the [p] sound in Proto-Indo-European to become [f] in Germanic languages. Still, stranger things have happened along the road from PIE to English and German.

Dr. Goodword,

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