Printable Version
Pronunciation: pah-lên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (uncountable)

Meaning: A fine powdery substance consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or cone.

Notes: Pollen is good for plants but bad for people and other animals since they are a major cause of allergies. This noun comes with an adjective, pollenary, and a verb, pollenate, which has a family of its own: pollenator and pollenation. Anything that produces pollen may be called a pollenarium, whose plural is pollenaria.

In Play: Pollenated days are upon much of the world even in March: "What is the pollen count today? I need to know whether to take my mask off." The loss of bees could result in lower farm production rates, since bees are the principal carriers of pollen from one plant to others.

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin pollen "mill dust; fine flour", at the bottom of pollenta, polenta "peeled barley". English borrowed a descendant of this word from Italian polenta "barley flour, polenta". Other derivations from the same PIE word are puls "mush, porridge" and pulvis "dust", which underlies the English borrowing pulverize. All these words were handed down from Proto-Indo-European pel-/pol- "powder, flour", which ended up in English as flour, from a reduced form of the PIE word, pl-. Other Indo-European words from the same source include Greek poltos "pap, porridge" and Sanskrit palalam "ground seeds". (Today's Good Word was a generous thought from Jeremy Busch in the Alpha Agora, which is deeply appreciated.)

Dr. Goodword,

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