Printable Version
Pronunciation: fUl-g(y)ê-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To flash brightly, intensely, like lightning. 2. (Medical) Electrocauterize, cauterize or destroy tissue with electricity.

Notes: Today we have something different: a term whose medical usage outperforms its general usage. It comes with a large family of lexical relatives, some of whose meanings are a bit askew. The action noun is fulguration, and the adjective, fulgurant with its noun, fulgurance. These are all from a base noun fulgor "splendor, dazzling brightness". The personal noun, fulgurator, refers to a mystic who predicts the future from bolts of lightning.

In Play: The flashes must be spectacularly bright: "Coastal lighthouses fulgurated in the moonless night, keeping the shipping lanes a safe distance from the shore." In this word's more frequent medical sense you might read something like this: "During the patient's colonoscopy three polyps were fulgurated and removed."

Word History: Today's Good Word was made from fulguratus, the past participle of Latin fulgurare "to lighten, flash", from fulgur "lightning". Latin created this word from PIE bhel- "shining, white", which turned up as Sanskrit bhalam "luster, shine", Greek falos "white". Russian as belyi "white" and beluga "white whale", Welsh ufel "fire", and Irish bán "fire". All other offspring of the PIE mother are metathesized, like Latin flamma "flame" (whence English flame), and flagrare "to blaze", the present participle of which is flagran(t)s. This version of bhel- ended up in English by various means as blank (from French blanc "white"), bleach, blond and, believe it or not, black. Occasionally over time, words assume an antonymic meaning, like cold and scald. (Now let's thank, yet again, wordmaster and major contributor to the Agora, George Kovac, for snatching today's Good Word from the jaws of the medical vocabulary and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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