• electrolyte •
ê-lek-trê-lait • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An ion of such substances as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate, that regulates the electrical current that moves through cell membranes. 2. A liquid solution that conducts electricity.
Notes: Today's word has a modest family consisting of a verb, electrolyze, formed by analogy with electrolyte and analyze, and an adjective, electrolytic. Remember, that is a [y] in the final syllable, not an [i]. It is usually used in the plural, electrolytes, since it takes so many to make a difference.
In Play: We must remember, when working at a hot summer job that causes us to sweat, we shouldn't drink plain water. If salt water (for its sodium) doesn't appeal to you, drink orange juice or some other juice with electrolytes added. Unless we replenish our electrolytes, we could face a medical emergency worse than dehydration. "Ronny is so full of electrolytes he glows when he stands near an electrical outlet."
Word History: This Good Word is Latin electric-us, the adjective of electrum "amber", borrowed from Greek electron "amber". This word was combined with Greek lytos "set loose", the past participle of lyein "to loosen, set loose". Our word for "electricity" comes from the Greek word for "amber" because our ancient ancestors discovered that static electricity can be created by rubbing amber on the fur of an animal. Yes, rubbing amber on a cat's fur is how the electronic age truly began. The root underlying Greek lyein also underlies English loose, lose and lease. That is the Greek form (lys) in words like analysis, paralysis, and palsy, which is an Old English reduction of Old French paralisie "paralysis".
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