• marcescent •
mahr-ses-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Withering but remaining on the stem (said of leaves).
Notes: We create the noun for this adjective by simply adding the common suffix -s: [mahr-ses-ênts], but we have to spell it marcescence. It comes with another adjective, marcescible "liable to wither or fade", which also has a noun, marcescibility. Remember, the first [s] sound is represented by C, but the second, by SC.
In Play: This word has been a prisoner of the vocabulary of biology until now: "The Japanese maple in my backyard is marcescent; its leaves turn gray in October but remain on the tree until March." Let's break it out and release it into the general vocabulary like this: "Let's leave Gladys Friday in her marcescent state. I still don't think she should be fired, even though she has lost all her creative vigor and drive."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Latin marcescen(t)s "beginning to wither, droop, be faint", the present participle of marcescere "to begin to wither, droop, decay, pine away". This verb is the inchoative of marcere "to wither, droop, be faint", inherited from the PIE root merk-/mork- "to decay", source also of Sanskrit marka- "destruction, death", Lithuanian mirkti "soak", Polish markotny "moody", Ukrainian morokuvatii "gloomy", and Welsh brag "malt". (Let's now thank Debbie Moggio, far, far from marcescent herself, for sharing today's lovely Good Word with us.)
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