Printable Version
Pronunciation: pahr-thê-no-kahr-pee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The production of fruit without fertilization.

Notes: What do bananas and figs have in common? They both develop without fertilization and produce no viable seeds. These are parthenocarpic plants. So far, no one seems to have used parthenocarpical, but we see it the adverb parthenocarpically.

In Play: Parthenocarpy may be a good thing: "Parthenocarpy plays an important role in selecting trees and other plants because no one would want to fill their garden with all male or female plants." Seedlessness is not a sign of parthenocarpy: "Most seedless grapes are not seedless because of parthenocarpy but because of cultivational development."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a Greek compound created from parthenos "virgin" + carpos "fruit". No one is quite sure where parthenos comes from, though we do find it in Parthenon, the name of Athena's temple in Athens. Athena parthenogenetically sprang from her father's forehead to become the protector of Athens. Carpos was passed down to Greek as PIE kerp-/korp- "to gather, harvest", source also of English harvest and Latin carpere "to pluck", the root of which went into the making of carp. English scarce was picked off from Old French scars, the French remake of Vulgar Latin excarpsus "narrow, cramped". This word is a revision of Classical Latin excerptus, the past participle of excerpere "to pick out", source also of the English Latinate borrowing excerpt. (Today we thank Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, long-time editor of the GW series, for suggesting today's quite informative Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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