Printable Version
Pronunciation: gor-gê-naiz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To petrify, to turn into stone. 2. To paralyze, stupefy, petrify.

Notes: This eponym is based on gorgon, either a horrible Greek mythological woman or a derogatory word referring to a repulsive woman. It comes with two adjectives, gorgonesque and gorgonian. A gorgoneion is a representation of a gorgon's head, especially on a shield. When referring to the mythological woman, it is usually capitalized, Gorgon.

In Play: In the original sense of this rare word, we might interpret "turn into stone" as "carve a statue": "Randy loves Cynthia so much he promised to gorgonize her for posterity." In the sense "paralyze" might be seen as "severely captivate", it might be found in expressions like this: "Carnaby could gorgonize an audience around a campfire with a stony look, as he told a frightening story in a scary voice."

Word History: Today's Good Word emanates from Greek Gorgon, one of the three mythological sisters with writhing venomous snakes for hair (Medusa, Stheino, and Euryale), whose gaze could turn people to stone. The name is based on the adjective gorgos "terrible". The origin of this word is rather mysterious. It seems to be a reduplicated form related to Sanskrit ghora "terrible, dreadful" and Russian groza "thunder(storm)", which would take it back to Proto-Indo-European ger-/gor- "to make a loud noise, to shriek or roar". However, this PIE word seems related mostly to animal sounds, like Lithuanian garnys "heron", Latin grus "crane", German Krähe "crow", and English crow. (Let's all tip our e-hats once again to the mysterious Grogie of the Agora for recommending today's rare but fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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