• optic •
ahp-tik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Pertaining to the eye or vision, as 'the optic nerve'.
Notes: We can decorate this adjective with an additional, senseless suffix, -al: optical, as in 'optical illusion'. It comes with a noun created by adding the suffix -s: optics, like athletics, mathematics, and forensics. Optics generally refers to the study of light, particularly as it relates to the eyes. Recently a new sense of this noun has emerged: "appearance to the public", as in, "The optics of a senator dancing in the reflection pool at night did not help his campaign at all."
In Play: Today's word is used mostly in medicine: "A bottle of scotch is enough to awaken Tom Collins's optic senses and bring him to your table." Optical is more widely encountered in the common idiom: "If Gladys Friday seems to be working, it is an optical illusion."
Word History: Today's Good Word has its origin in ancient Greek optikos "of or related to sight", from optos "seen, visible". The latter word is based on ops "eye", which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European base as classical Latin oculus "eye". This word did not prevent Latin from borrowing the Greek word as opticus, which French decorated with -que to create optique. This was the word English actually borrowed. The PIE root, okw- "eye", came through Old Germanic and ended up as German Auge, Dutch oog and English eye. It reached Sanskrit as akshi and Russian as oko. During the Viking invasions, English picked up the Old Norse words for "window": vindauga, literally "wind eye", perhaps from the pareidolian image of the front of early houses. (Lest we raise bad optics, let us now offer our gratitude to Perry Lassiter, a Grand Panjandrum in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Wood.)
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