Printable Version
Pronunciation: grê-nayd Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A small explosive device thrown by hand or launched by a special launcher. 2. A small glass receptacle containing chemicals designed to break and disperse the chemicals inside.

Notes: Here is a word of limited application but a fascinating history. It may be used as a verb meaning "to attack with grenades." A grenadier was once a soldier trained to throw grenades. Today, they are employed as guards and other light roles in the British military.

In Play: Grenade has a narrow range of uses: "A small detachment retook the position with only automatic rifles and hand grenades." It may conceivably be used in a figurative sense, like this: "The chief negotiator's announcement that she was pulling out of the talks threw a grenade into the negotiations that were progressing smoothly."

Word History: Old French pome grenate (Modern French grenade "pomegranate; grenade") was a remake of Medieval Latin pomum granatum, literally "apple with (many) seeds", made up of pome "apple; fruit" + grenate "having grains, seeds". The latter evolved from Latin granata "having grains" from granum "grain", which Latin inherited from PIE root gre-no- "grain", source also of corn in both the British and American senses, grange and granite.

Old French grenate also meant "of a dark red color; garnet", from the size and color of pomegranate seeds. Old French picked this sense up from Medieval Latin granatum "garnet; of dark red color". Grenade comes analogically from the structure of the pomegranate, which is a container of a large number of seeds as the original grenades contained many pieces of shrapnel. Modern grenades are designed so that the metal covering of the explosive breaks up into shrapnel pieces. (Now let's thank Paula Ward, whose disbelief that grenade could come from pomegranate led her to bring this connection to the attention of all of us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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