Printable Version
Pronunciation: eg-zuv-ee-ayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To shed an outer skin or other covering, as do certain insects, crustaceans, and reptiles when they molt (slough off their shells or skins as they grow).

Notes: Today's Good Word has been hiding in the bushes of science until today. It is related to exuvia (plural exuviae), the name of molted skin. The abstract noun is exuviation. We have two adjectives, exuviable "capable of being sloughed off" and exuvious "related to exuviae".

In Play: Cicada exuviaThe most common usage of this word—if common is at all at home here—relates it to sloughing off an exoskeleton to accommodate growth: "This softshell crab has not exuviated its shell if, in fact, exuviation ever started." However, we can use it figuratively in a much broader set of contexts: "The fictitious Senator Frank Underwood in the Netflix series "House of Cards" is expert at exuviating embarrassing situations." (I suppose this is true of all agile politicians.)

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin exuere "to take off", from Proto-Indo-European eu- "to dress". We don't find many words with this root in the Indo-European family of languages, because the root apparently comprised only two vowels. But we do find much evidence of its extension, wes- "to dress, wear". First and foremost among them is Latin vestis "garment" (from vestire "to dress"), ancestor of French veste, which English couldn't resist borrowing in the sense of a very small garment. In fact English wear traces its ancestry back to wes-. The shift of S to R is known as 'rhotacism', and it is fairly common in PIE languages. We find the original S in Sanskrit vaste "he dons, puts on" and Greek esthes "clothing".

Dr. Goodword,

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