Printable Version
Pronunciation: ræ-ni-vê-rês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Frog-eating.

Notes: You probably thought this word applied only to a small circle of animals. Guess what? Europeans are ranivorous, too, a debt we may owe to the French, who long ago discovered the delicacy of flavor in bullfrog legs. The adverb would be ranivorously, and the noun, ranivorousness rather than ranivorosity. Creatures that eat frogs are ranivores.

In Play: Biologists are worried about the world-wide disappearance of frogs that cannot be attributed to ranivorous species or French epicures. Many believe that frogs are a sentinel species, an early warning of a failure in our ecosystem that will mean more mosquitoes and other insects, and fewer ranivorous animals like minks, otters, raccoons, and snakes. The details are still being worked out.

Word History: This funny word comes from a compound based on Latin rana "frog" + vorare "to swallow whole, devour" + -ous, an English adjective suffix borrowed from Latin. Rana is a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European root rek- "to bellow", which is also behind Latin rancare "to bellow" and Russian rech' "speech". The latter omits the always expendable Fickle N. Latin rana stayed the same in Italian and Spanish, and became in Portuguese.

Latin vorare apparently devolved from a PIE root like gwor-, with an initial G that was lost in Latin and Greek, where we find bi-brosko "to devour". We assume Greek preserved the W, which in certain cases would become B. In Sanskrit the G was preserved in girati "s/he gobbles", and the ZH in Russian zhret' and Czech zhrát "devour, gobble" can be explained by the G in the earlier PIE word.

Dr. Goodword,

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