• oolite •
o-wê-lait • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Sedimentary limestone comprising small round grains (ooliths), resembling fish roe. Each oolith consists of calcium carbonate surrounding a grain of sand as its nucleus.
Notes: Here we have a word with very little use in colloquial conversation. I decided to make it a Good Word because of its unusual spelling and pronunciation. Oolite is made from ooids, which are usually formed under the sea, but may be seen on several beaches, including Joulter Cays,_Bahamas (see illustration). When subjected to geological pressure, these convert to ooliths, that glom together to form oolite. Oolite brings with it an adjective, oolitic (plus oolithic).
In Play: Oolite may be partially uncovered from its scientific shroud in expressions like this: "Buried under other sediments for a long period, ooids may be fused into a solid mass of oolite." Oolite is made up of ooliths, which are formed rather like pearls, accumulating around a small fragment of sediment acting as a 'seed'."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a geological term comprising the German version of Greek oo(n)- "egg" + lith(os) "stone". English borrowed its word from German and, since there is no [th] sound in German, the word came to English as oolit. Greek oon was created from PIE owyo "egg", no doubt related to awi- "bird". It emerged in Welsh as uy, in Latin as ovum, in Russian as jaico, in Serbian as jaje (where J = Y) and in Armenian as yu—all meaning "egg". No one knows where Greek lithos came from. The Greek words leios "smooth" and litos "plain, simple" may be related for lithos may refer to finished smooth stones. Petros always refers to rough stones found in nature. Here the connection breaks down over the verb lithazein "to stone" since smooth finished stones were not required for stoning. (Thanks now to William Seeley, who found today's odd little Good Word and shared it with us.)
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