Printable Version
Pronunciation: ho-lê-dê-mor Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A famine intentionally created by Stalin in Ukraine that caused the deaths of 3-5 million Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933, the "Terror Famine".

Notes: Today's Good Word appears only in a few peripheral dictionaries, despite coming up 3,270,000 times in a Google search and a memorial to it in Washington, DC. Today's word is a lexical orphan.

In Play: Although America sent thousands of tons of corn and wheat seeds to the Ukraine during the 1921-23 famine, stronger anti-Soviet sentiment prevented US intervention in the holodomor of 1932-1933. So 2022 wasn't Moscow's first attack on the Ukraine. Ukraine was settled by angry serfs who didn't like their slave-like status, so they fled "to the edge" of Muscovy, u krai in Ukrainian. They called themselves Cossacks and were historically defiant toward Moscow. Stalin staged the holodomor of the 30s to suppress resistance to collectivization and efforts to build an independent Ukrainian state.

Word History: Holodomor is a compound noun comprising holod "hunger, famine" mor "death". Golod came from PIE goldi- "desire", Proto-Slavic gold'- "hunger", which by liquid metathesis became glad in South Slavic Serbian and Bulgarian, and West Slavic Czech hlad and Polish głod—all meaning "hunger". The same PIE word by "full voicing" became golod in Eastern Slavic Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian (where it is pronounced [holêd]). Mor has a more recognizable origin. It derives from PIE mer-/mor- "to die", found in Sanskrit marati "dies", Latin mors, mortis "death", Greek mortos "mortal, person", Lithuanian mirti "to die", Russian mertvii "dead" and smert' "death", as in smert' shpionov "death to spies" (SMERSH), and Armenian mah "death", from earlier marh. (We owe Debbie Moggio a debt of gratitude for today's highly timely Good Word, that has all but slipped away from us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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