Printable Version
Pronunciation: glich Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A spike in electric current that interferes with the proper operation of a system or circuit. 2. A hitch, a snag, a small failure that interferes with some process or operation.

Notes: Although bugs and glitches share much in common, a bug is a serious problem that may require long-term effort to correct. A glitch implies a minor, easily fixable interruption. Despite the fact that it is a very young word, glitch is already being used as a verb, as to glitch (cause a glitch in) a computer program, and has an adjective, glitchy, meaning "having or tending to have glitches".

In Play: Assuming most of us are not electronic engineers, let's stick with the second, more general meaning of today's word: "The only glitch in an otherwise perfect fishing trip was the leak in Rodney's left hip boot." However, computer programming and electronic circuits are likely places to find glitches: "Phil had a glitch in his computer accounting program that caused the totals to be multiplied by 1.1112." Some companies would call it a clever accounting principle.

Word History: Today's Good Word arose from the US space program in the late 50s or early 60s. It appeared in print the first time in 1962. The astronauts used it in referring to an aberrant electrical surge that caused problems in a system. By the late 60s the second meaning was in the general vocabulary. Merriam-Webster's suggestion that the word comes from Yiddish glitsh "a slip" is questionable because of the difficulty in stretching the original electronic sense of glitch to "slip" or "slide". It is more likely that this word is a blend of some word beginning on GL (glance, glint, glimpse, glib) with hitch, a near synonym itself. Bottom line: no one knows for sure. (It would certainly be more than a glitch in today's Good Word were we not to thank our long-standing South African friend Chris Stewart for suggesting it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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