Printable Version
Pronunciation: ai-sê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: Separate from contact with others of the same kind, to set apart, exclude, quarantine.

Notes: Today's word comes with a host of derivations. First, anything standing alone is an isolate, pronounced [ai-sê-lêt]. The active adjective is isolative "tending to isolate". The passive adjective may drop the verbal suffix -ate to become isolable or not: isolatable. The action noun is isolation, and the policy that seeks to isolate a country from the rest of the world is isolationism. Anyone believing such is an isolationist.

In Play: People around the world have been constrained to isolate recently: "For more than a year in 2020-2021 we have been asked to isolate ourselves with our families in our homes to avoid spreading the COVID virus." Isolationism appeals to many people: "The previous administration attempted to isolate this country from all others."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English reconstruction of French isolé "isolated", influenced by the French source, Latin insulatus "made into an island", based on insula "island". (By the way, English insulate was created directly from the Latin word.) English back-derived its verb isolate, implied by isolated. There seems to have been no Latin insulare "to make into an island" and the origin of insula itself is something of a mystery. Some have guessed it came from the phrase in salo "in the sea" from salum "the open sea". But since it was mostly used in reference to river islands, this origin is questionable. Anyway, Old French reduced insula to isle, which Modern French has reduced to île, the hat on the I indicating the loss of the S. (Today's absolutely fascinating Good Word is a gift of our long-standing German friend and subscriber Monika Freund—whose very name is "friend".)

Dr. Goodword,

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