• proximal •
prak-sê-mêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Located closer to the center (antonym: distal). 2. Nearer, nearest, close, closest.
Notes: This word is used in many scientific and general contexts. We should be careful to distinguish it from proximate "direct, immediate, close" in the scientific sense. In the second, general sense, these two words are synonymous. The adverb is proximally and the noun is proximality.
In Play: In scientific usage, we may expect statements like this: "The usual point of medical injections is the proximal end of the upper arm." In the broader sense of the word, we could hear things like this: "The meeting was small, so people were seated in proximal relationships, facing one another."
Word History: Today's Good Word was formed by adding the suffix -al to Latin proxime "closest", superlative of prope "near", made up of prope + kwe- "and, plus". Prope was created by Latin from a metathesized form of PIE per-/por- "forward". We have met per-/por- many times before. It went into the making of English far, fore-, and for and German für and the prefix ver-. English also used a metathesized form for first. In Russian it underlies pered "before, in front of", pro "about", pro- "through", and pri- "to(ward)". In Greek it became proira "forward part of a ship", which English converted to prow. While English was heisting words from Greek, it also helped itself to proton, the neuter gender of protos "first, foremost". (Today we owe yet another debt of gratitude to our old friend and prolific word-gatherer George Kovac for recommending yet another prime Good Word.)
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