• gherkin •
gêr-kin • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A prickly West Indian gourd whose immature fruit is pickled. 2. A small pickled cucumber.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a curiosity: one of a very few English words beginning with GH. The H, of course, is irrelevant, a 'silent' H. Its oddness is probably responsible for the fact that it is a lexical orphan, without related derivations.
In Play: Moms, here is how you can spice up your discussions with your children using today's word: "Aha! Caught you jerking a gherkin out of the jar! Put it back or you'll ruin your dinner." There isn't much room in this word's meaning for metaphor, so we are stuck with its literal meaning: "I wouldn't insult my guests with gherkins on their hamburgers; I serve only large dills."
Word History: This English word is the result of mistaking Dutch gurken, the plural of gurk "cucumber", as a singular form. The Dutch word is a shortened form of augurk, borrowed from a Slavic language, either Polish ogórek or Russian ogurec. The Slavs probably got their word from late Greek angourion "watermelon". The Greeks may have taken the word from Persian angarah or aguron, but no one knows for sure. (We might have been in a pickle had Jackie Strauss not provided us with this Good Word when she did.)