Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri--sê-tayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To bring back from the brink of death by restoring breathing or consciousness.

Notes: Today's word belongs to a large derivational family. There are two adjectives, resuscitative "capable of resuscitating" and resuscitable "capable of being resuscitated." The action noun is resuscitation and the agent or instrumental nouns are resuscitator "a person or mechanism that resuscitates". There are also two synonymic verbs with distinguishable meanings. Restore means "to return to a previous condition", while revive means to bring back to consciousness or memory, as 'to revive a play'. Resuscitate is much more physically visceral and bodily. That is why CPR stands for "cardio-pulmonary resuscitation" and not "cardio-pulmonary revival".

In Play: Today's word is the one to use when actual life is at stake: "When Fernando Valli saw his mother in the arms of her new boyfriend, he collapsed, and it took a quarter hour of CPR to resuscitate him." You can revive someone with a pitcher of cold water on the face, but other types of resuscitation take more effort: "Nothing can resuscitate Sam Pellegrino's plan now that everyone knows it's his and not the boss's."

Word History: Today's Good Word ultimately comes from Latin resuscitare based on re- "again" + suscitare "to stir up", from sub- "(from) below" + citare "to move vigorously", the repetitive form of ciere "to set in motion". The Latin root cie- comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root, kei-"to set in motion" from which kinetic derives. This word was borrowed from Greek from kinetos "moving" from kinein "to move." (Latin C was originally pronounced [k], same as Greek K.) The same Greek word occurs in cinematograph "moving picture", which has been clipped to cinema widely in the English-speaking world and elsewhere.

Dr. Goodword,

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