Printable Version
Pronunciation: græn-yê--rê-tee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Graininess, granulation, the size of visible grains or particles in anything, as the granularity of granite or sugar. 2. The size and number of components of a system where the smaller the size, the greater the number.

Notes: Today's amazing word has become a buzzword in virtually every field of endeavor: photography, physics, computer science, investing, business. Everyone seems to like this noun from the adjective granular "made up of grains or particles". This noun is about fitting things in a fixed space: the larger the components are, the fewer will fit; the smaller, the more. The verb is granulate "to become or make granular". It comes with a noun, granulation, a synonym of today's word.

In Play: Today's Good Word is used several ways in the world of computing; this is one of the more obvious ones: "Moving from mainframe computers to networked personal computers resulted in information systems of much finer granularity." Granularity is widely seen in research data: "The coarse granularity of Reese Tate's research allowed too many errors to wander into his results." In other words, Reese consulted too few sources and gathered too few data.

Word History: The Latin noun granum "grain" became grain as it made its way down French. English, in one of its schizophrenic moods, borrowed the noun from French and the adjective paired with it from the Latin, using the diminutive granulum "little grain". We adapted this same word to use by itself as granule "very small grain". The original root, grn- underwent metathesis in English (the R switched places with the vowel), giving us corn and, with a suffix, kernel. Old English speakers thought that the word acorn was a combination of ac, ak, ake "oak" + corn and spelled this word ake-corn in the past. That makes sense but acorn is a derivation of acre when it meant "field" and is unrelated to today's word. (Today we offer our purest, ungranulated gratitude to Lee Blue for adding this lexical granule to our series.)

Dr. Goodword,

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