• television •
te-lê-vi-zhên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass and count
Meaning: 1. A technology for broadcasting motion pictures and sound. 2. The industry that produces programming for this technology. 3. (Count noun) An apparatus designed and produced for receiving this programming, a television set.
Notes: Today's word comes with a large lexical family. A verb has been back-formed, televise, with a personal and instrumental noun televiser. Something that may be televised is televisible with great televisibility. Without a television set? Then you're televisionless. In the UK the nicknames tele or telly are popular. In the US, it's TV, pronounced tee-vee.
In Play: Television is more often a mass noun: "People are watching a lot less television these days of YouTube and online news outlets." When they do watch television, much of the time is spent watching movies on Netflix and other streaming sources. However, it is only slightly less often used as a count noun: "Most new televisions have built-in computers."
Word History: The first documented use of this word was in a paper presented in French at the 1st International Congress of Electricity by a Russian scientist, Constantin Perskyi, on the 25th of August 1900. So, it is a linguistically recent concoction. It is a faulty word that mixes constituents from two different languages, Greek tele "far" + Latin visio(n-) "vision". Since it was created in French, we can say English borrowed it from French télévision. The Germans replaced it with a loan translation Fernsehen, comprising fern "far" + sehen "seeing". Tele- has now been incorporated in several international words like telephone, telegraph and telescope—all pristinely Greek. (Let's offer now a bow of gratitude to Eric Berntson, an astute logophile who correctly judged today's Good Word as a fascinating one.)
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