Printable Version
Pronunciation: i-nah-kyê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To inject vaccine into the body of a person or animal. 2. To safeguard, protect, as 'to inoculate against communism'. 3. To introduce an idea into someone's mind, as 'to inoculate with fervor for capitalism'. 4. (Obsolete) To implant a bud from one plant to another.

Notes: This word has a substantial lexical family. Someone who inoculates is an inoculator. Inoculation is the action noun, referring to an inoculative procedure. The infective material used in inoculations is called an inoculum, the plural of which is inocula.

In Play: Although measles was declared eradicated in 2000, by May 3, 2019 764 cases had been reported. The majority of these had not been inoculated against the disease. You can be inoculated figuratively, too: "Corey Publican ran a series of ads designed to inoculate himself from criticism by his opponent."

Word History: The fourth, obsolete sense of today's Good Word was its original meaning. It comes from Latin inoculatus, the past participle of inoculare "to implant a bud of one plant into another". This verb is composed of in "in" + oculus "eye; bud". Oculus is a suffixed form of PIE okw- "to see", visible in Russian oko "eye"", Greek okkos "eye", and Sanskrit akshi "eye". By Proto-Germanic okw- had picked up a noun suffix -on and become augon "eye", which went on to become German Auge, Swedish öga, Danish øje, Dutch oog, and Modern English eye. The connection between the senses of "eye" and "bud" is alive today in phrases like 'eye of a potato'. (Let's inoculate ourselves against ingratitude by thanking Rob Towart for suggesting today's historically interesting Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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