Printable Version
Pronunciation: pin-ê-ped Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A fin-footed carnivorous mammal of the suborder Pinnipedia, a carnivorous quadruped with no legs with flippers for feet, including seals, sea-lions, and walruses.

Notes: Today we have a scientific word that may be useful in general conversation. What do you call all those animals with flippers rather than legs? Here is the word. The adjective accompanying this noun is pinnipedian, although you may use this noun as an adjective, too, as in 'pinniped colonies'.

In Play: pinnipedAny mammal with fins for legs is a pinniped: "Although they look like seals, sea lions belong to a different family of pinnipeds." Pinnipeds are competitors for some our favorite sea foods: "A recent study showed that pinnipeds consume about 625 metric tons of salmon a year in Puget Sound alone."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created from Modern Latin Pinnipedia by snipping off the final two letters. Latin made its word from pinna "feather, wing, fin" + pes, pedis "foot". Pinna is a variant of penna from earlier petna, suffixed form of PIE pet-/pot- "to fly, flow", source also of English feather and German Feder "feather". Russian added its own suffix, to produce ptitsa "bird". Greek used the O-variant for potomos "river, stream", something that flows, as in the English borrowing hippopotamus "river horse", from hippos "horse" + potamos. Latin and Greek's decision went the same way with PIE ped-/pod- "foot": Latin pes, pedis and Greek pous, podos. In the Germanic languages it turned up as English foot, German Fuß, Danish fod, Dutch voet and Swedish fot. (Thanks today to our old friend David Myer for recommending today's very useful but seldom used Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!