• pumpkin •
pêmp-kin • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A large, usually orange, gourd-like squash with a thick flesh used for making pies and cattle fodder. Its seeds are eaten roasted and fed to birds uncooked. At Halloween, they are also carved into funny faces, which makes them jack-o'-lanterns. 2. Darling, precious: a term of affection and endearment.
Notes: Although today's word is a lexical orphan with no relatives, it does undergo variations. A pumpkin-head, of course, is a dolt, a stupid or foolish person. It is not uncommon to drop the second P, leaving the M next to K, where it naturally becomes N, giving us punkin. This form is particularly prevalent in the southern US.
In Play: Today's Good Word, for some strange reason, is a term of affection in the US: "Pumpkin, would you make one of your wonderful pumpkin pies for the tailgate party?" An interesting side note to today's word is that while most fruit and vegetables grow in gardens, orchards, or fields, pumpkins (a fruit) grow in patches: "Jack O'Reilly picked the biggest pumpkin in the patch from which to carve his jack-o'-lantern."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the diminutive and affectionate form of an older word, pumpion, borrowed from French pompon. The suffix -kin is no longer active in English but we still find it on words referring to small or lovable things: lambkin, napkin (small apron), boykin, mannikin, munchkin. The word pompon remained in French, but acquired the meaning "pompom", tempting English to adopt it again later on. French pompon evolved from Latin pepon, peponis "melon", from the same source as Greek pepon "ripe". That source also provided Russian pech' "stove, to bake". Apparently, the oldest meaning of this root was "to cook or ripen".
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