• bruxism •
brUk-siz-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Unconscious clenching or grinding of the teeth, especially while sleep. Grinding our teeth when we are awake, usually in anger, is gnashing; at night is it bruxism, angry or not.
Notes: Today's Good Word would be a sniglet except that it is in the dictionary and sniglets are words we need that are not in the dictionary. It is a word that seldom occurs to us when we need it. Although it appears without any family members, all words ending on -ism allow adjectives and nouns on -ist, so someone who suffers from bruxism is surely a bruxist.
In Play: As a bruxist myself, I can offer an example straight from my life: because of my bruxism, I must consciously separate my teeth and find a position that places no pressure on my jaw before going to sleep at night. Some people who suffer from bruxism must wear teeth protectors when they sleep.
Word History: Today's word is based on Greek bruxe "grinding, gnashing" from the verb brukein "to gnash". Apparently, the ancestor of the Greek word began with the sound [gh] ([g] with a puff of air), a sound that under certain circumstances became B in Greek. It apparently was something like ghrugh-, for it turns up in Russian as gryzun "rodent" from the Old Slavic word grysti "to gnaw, chew". It may be related to the Russian word grust' "sadness, sorrow", too, though the evidence is shaky. The root remains in Lithuanian as grauti "to chew". The original root does not seem to have made it to the Germanic languages, so we find no evidence of it in English. (Let us now thank Luis Alejandro Apiolaza for suggesting today's Good Word before he begins gnashing his teeth from frustration and not bruxism.)
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