Printable Version
Pronunciation: flahk-yê-lênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Fluffy, wooly, having or resembling tufts of wool. 2. Having a loosely clumped texture, like aggregated particles or flakes.

Notes: The only thing to look out for in spelling this word is the double C, not pronounced [ks] as in occipital. It comes with an adverb, flocculently, and a noun, flocculence. A chemical agent that makes particles clump together is known as a flocculant, with an A, not an E.

In Play: The original meaning of today's word was "wooly": "The wind blew the flocculent white hair of octogenarian Jerry Attrick so that he appeared to have a nest of seagulls on his head." The second sense of today's word is used mostly in the sciences: "The nebula fairly resembles the wing of a bird consisting of flocculent masses of dust and other particles."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a combination of Latin floccus "lock, tuft" + the English version of the Latin suffix -ulentus "having much". Most Indo-European etymologists have given up searching for the origin of floccus. This leaves the field open for speculation. Now, the PIE word for "fleece" was pek-/pok- with no [l]. However, the word for "flake, feather, hair" was pleuk-. The sound [p] begat [f] only in Germanic languages, so Latin could have come by this sound only if it borrowed the word from a Proto-Germanic language—not a far-fetched idea. English has remnants of the PIE word in flock and flake. One of flock's meanings is "a rag, tuft of wool" and sheep are known as animals that flock together. I will stop here but, if there is interest, we can continue this etymology in the Agora. (Today's fascinating Good Word was yet another gift of George Kovac, who practices law in Miami, Florida.)

Dr. Goodword,

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