Printable Version
Pronunciation: paht-hol Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A round hole in a riverbed or rock formed by swirling currents carrying stones. 2. A hole in the surface of a street or road caused by weather and wear, a chuckhole. 3. A deep hole in the ground leading to caves.

Notes: Did you ever wonder who left a pot in the first pothole? Well, I wondered why they are even called potholes and thought maybe you had, too. This word comes with two adjectives, potholed "having pothole(s)" and potholey "having many potholes. This noun may be used as a verb meaning "to produced potholes" and "caving, exploring potholes" in the 3rd sense above.

In Play: This word is used most often in reference to holes in a road or street: "Driving on back roads, Wiley Driver hit a pothole so deep it knocked his toupee off." It may also be used figuratively in the sense of "problem": "Carmen Ghia's journey to graduation hit several financial potholes."

Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a compound comprising pot + hole. Pot was borrowed from French pot "pot, jar", the remnants of Late Latin potus "drinking cup". Potus is the past participle of Latin potare "to drink" that was created from PIE poi-/pei- "to drink", which emerged in Sanskrit as pati "drinks", Greek poto "I drink", Albanian pi "I drink", Polish and Serbian pij "drink!", Russian pei "drink!" and pivo "beer", and Lithuanian puota "feast, drinking spree". Hole was the adjective hol "hollow, concave" and, when used as a noun, "hollow place, cave, cavity". The adjective sense gave way to hollow by Middle English. It has cousins in German hohl "hollow" and Höhle "cave", Dutch hol "cave, hollow, hole", Swedish hål "hole, well", Danish and Norwegian hule "cave" and hull "hole". Outside the Germanic languages we find no evidence of PIE family. (Now we must thank wordmaster William Hupy for today's common but fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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