• peloton •
pe-lê-tahn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A condensed pack of competitors in a race, especially cyclists.
Notes: This word's visibility has risen since it became the name of a popular computerized exercise bike. It is used most often in reference to bicycle races, especially the Tour de France. It is a lexical orphan.
In Play: A peloton is a group of racers bunched together: "Mona Getsche was using every bit of road, dirt, sidewalk to get ahead of the peloton in the cycle race." Racers may be tightly or loosely bunched so long as they are close together: "In the scorching heat of the sun, the peloton was loosely bunched together but rolling along at a comfortable speed."
Word History: Today's Good Word is French peloton "pack, outfit, platoon" augmentative of pelote "ball, knot, pincushion", a reworking of which turned up in English as pellet. The game of pelota, played with a pelota (ball), enjoys some popularity in Spain, especially in Basque country, today. In French, peloton may also refer to a military squad, so English reworked that French word into platoon. The connection to Proto-Indo-European is sketchy to say the least. This word might be connected to pel-/pol- "skin, hide, cloth", which could be used as a verb meaning "to cover with". Since balls and pincushions are usually made of hair or sponges covered with these materials, it might have arisen from this PIE word. If so, it is related to Latin pellis, Portuguese pele , Spanish piel , French peau , German Fell, and English fell—all meaning "skin" or "hide".
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