• tornado •
tor-nay-do • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A violent whirlwind, a rotary windstorm forming a funnel that sucks objects upward from the ground when it touches.
Notes: Today's Good Word is eerily apropos in light of the horrendous trail of tornadoes that recently swept across the southern US states. We wish all the best to those who lost their homes in this catastrophe. You may form the plural of this word with or without an E; tornados is just as good as tornadoes. The scientific world uses the adjective tornadic when an adjective is needed, as tornadic weather or winds. Others have used tornadoish, though not often.
In Play: Today's meteorological term usually refers to a severe storm with spinning wind patterns that literally suck large objects up from the ground: "Tornadoes wreaked havoc across several states, killing over 200 people and destroying small towns." Since the aftermath of a real tornado is a ravaged landscape, this word is often used metaphorically to refer to things in complete disarray. What mother hasn't said this more than once to her child: "Your room looks like a tornado struck it!"
Word History: he origin of today's Good Word would seem to be Spanish tronada "thunderstorm" from tronar "to thunder". The best guess is that English borrowed tronada, then subjected the R and O to metathesis either under the influence of Spanish tornar "to twist, turn" or English turn. Spanish tronar comes from Latin tonare "to thunder". The same root that produced this word produced English thunder (from Old English thunor) and German Donner. English blunderbuss is a revision of Dutch donderbuss "thunderbox", based on the Dutch word donder "thunder" from the same source. (Let us all thank Chris Berry, a Grand Panjandrum in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word and wish him a tornadoless life.)