Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-stend Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To swell or cause to swell, to enlarge from internal pressure.

Notes: Today's word is a member of a large family of Latin borrowings distinguished by prefixes and meanings: extend, intend, contend. Its noun is distension and its adjective is distensible "capable of distension or causing distension". (Distendible is obsolete and malformed.)

In Play: The stomach is probably the most talked about object of distension: "The puppies ate until their stomachs were noticeably distended." However, anything swollen or blown out may be described by this verb: "The drapes were distended by the draft coming in from the open window."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English remake of Latin distendere "to swell, stretch out". It is made up of dis- "apart" + tendere "to stretch", created from the PIE word ten-/ton- "to stretch", source also of English thin and the Latinate borrowings tone, based on Greek tonos "(musical) string"), tenor "general sense", as 'the tenor of the meeting', and the ever stretchable tent. The same PIE word provided the root for Sanskrit tantra "loom" and Greek tetanos "stiff, rigid, which English reshaped into tetanus, also known as "lockjaw". English also borrowed tendon from Greek tenon "tendon".

Dr. Goodword,

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