• gin •
jin • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A machine that removes seeds from cotton. 2. A snare or other device for trapping small game.
Notes: You may be wondering why the juniper-flavored liquor and card game are omitted in the definition above. That gin is a completely different word only accidentally identical (see Word History). The verb to gin up is a derivative of today's gin. A person who operates a cotton gin is a ginner, and the place where he gins it may be called a ginnery.
In Play: The first sense above is becoming rarer as we migrate away from cotton to more and more synthetic materials: "Lil Abner always took her cotton-ginning business to the gin closest to her farm." The second sense is even less often encountered: "All Horace's meat came from a rabbit gin that caught the occasional grouse, too."
Word History: The alcoholic drink "gin" is a simplification of Dutch jenever "juniper", borrowed from Old French geneivre, passed on from Vulgar Latin jeniperus, from classical Latin iuniperus "juniper", so called because the liquor is flavored with juniper berries.
Today's Good Word is a reduction of engine. Old French dropped the prefix en- from its word engin "skill, cleverness", which it inherited from Latin ingenium "cleverness, ability". The adjective from this word was ingeniosus, which English adopted and adapted to ingenious. In Late Latin the meaning had become "battering ram or other war engine". The original Latin word comprises in "in" + gen- "beget, give birth", so the original meaning was "in-born", fitting for those days in which war machines were considered ingenious.
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