Printable Version
Pronunciation: fi-lah-pæ-tri Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. (Biology, ecology) The drive to return to or remain at the site of birth. 2. (Ecology) A dispersal method in which spores and other reproductive particles tend to remain near their point of origin.

Notes: This word is so new it is found in only a handful of major dictionaries; the second sense above is found in only one. It has, however, picked up a few descendants. The personal noun is philopator and the adjective is philopatric.

In Play: Salmon are the most obviously philopatric. These fish are born in a river but swim out to sea to live. They then return to the same river for an arduous run upstream to the exact site of their birth to lay their eggs. But other fish and birds are driven by philopatry, too. Indeed, we see many humans influenced by natal philopatry to remain in the towns they were born in or to return to them in the last stage of their lives.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound made up of Greek constituents philo-s "loved, dear" + patra "home, family". The origin of philos is unknown. The origin of patra is well known. It is a variant of Greek pater "father". Latin has the same word. Both come from Proto-Indo-European pêter- "father", source also of English father, where [p] regularly converts to [f] and [t] regularly converts to [th]. The PIE word is presumed to be baby talk pa plus + familial -t-er found in mother, brother, and sister. This word was resilient in Indo-European languages. We find Vater in German, vader in Dutch, père in French, padre in Italian and Spanish, Portuguese pai (padre "priestly father"), pita in Hindi and Marathi, athair in Irish Gaelic, and pedr in Farsi (Persian). (Let's now thank our long-time champion contributor, William Hupy, for finding this very new Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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