• anthropogenic •
æn-thrê-pê-gen-ik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Man-made, human-made, caused by humans.
Notes: Here is a word creeping out of the scientific world and into general speech. It has an old-fashioned partner, anthropogenetic, which means two adverbs, anthropogenetically or anthropogenically. Notice the semantically empty suffix -al inserted between both adjectives and the adverb suffix -ly.
In Play: If you are not sure whether to use the obvious man-made or the peculiar-sounding human-made, here is an alternative: "The biggest anthropogenic threat to the peregrine falcon is habitat destruction caused by expanding housing developments." Today the argument is whether global warming is the result of anthropogenic or natural causes.
Word History: Today's Good Word was formed as a Greek compound, comprising anthropo- "human being" + gen- "producing, giving birth to". The best anyone can do with anthropos is to speculate it might have come from andro- "beard(ed)" + ops, opos "face" = "man" then "human". Gen- is another matter. It comes from PIE gene- "give birth to, beget". We have evidence of it throughout the Indo-European languages, beginning with generate, borrowed from Latin and oxygen, created by the French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier from Greek oxys "sharp, acidic" + -gen. Other borrowed words in English include genius, genie, and genocide. Words passed down by our Germanic ancestors from the same PIE word include kin, kind and king, though the origin of the final G is something of a mystery. (It is no mystery who recommended today's Good Word; it was our old friend, George Kovac.)
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