• exuvia •
eg-zu-vee-ê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Slough, a piece of molted or sloughed-off debris, such as a molted feather, or an outgrown crab shell or snake skin.
Notes: Today's is a almost a sniglet, a word we need but is hard to find in the dictionary. We often see dead snake skins without the snake, but how do we distinguish them from skin still on snakes? The adjective from today's word puts an end to that confusion by allowing us to distinguish an exuvial snake skin from a live one. Another word for "molt" is exuviate, the verb from today's Good Word: birds exuviate feathers while cicadas exuviate their shells, often seen on tree trunks in the fall in North America.
In Play: Today's Good Word is most often used in the plural: exuviae, pronounced [eg-zu-vee-ee]: "One of the children's favorite games in the summer is collecting the exuviae of various animals in the woods and lake." Notice this allows us to cover feathers, dead skins, and shells with one word. However, let's not be trapped by the literal sense of today's Good Word: "Howard followed the trail of Lydia's high fashion exuviae to the bedroom door and diplomatically stopped there."
Word History: Exuvia in Latin means "that which is taken off, removed". It is the noun from exuere "to doff, take off" composed of ex "(away) from" + the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root eu- "to dress, put on". This same root turns up in Lithuanian Lith avił "to wear shoes". If we reverse the E and U, the results will be we- in PIE, a root that went into the making of our own wear, which originated in an extended root wes-. The same extension arises in Latin vestis "garment", borrowed by English from French as vest. The Latin root appears in a few other words English borrowed from Latin. The most interesting one is travesty, borrowed via French travesti "disguised, cross-dressed", originating in Latin trans- "across" + vestir "to dress".
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