• rostrum •
rah-strêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A small, prominent platform for giving speeches or awards, or performing music (see first picture). 2. (Zoology) A beak, or beak-like projection on the heads of some insects, proboscis. The "sword" of a swordfish is a rostrum of this sort.
Notes: You have your choice of plurals for this word: the Latinate rostra or simply rostrums. We have a choice of three adjectives: rostroid, rostrate, or rostriform, all meaning "like a rostrum". Rostral refers to a position either on or in a rostrum or toward the front of the head.
In Play: You might say to someone excited by the anticipation of a promotion: "Don't get on the victory rostrum; you haven't gotten the promotion yet." You might be surprised by the usefulness of the second sense of today's Good Word: "Roasted, pulverized, and dissolved in wine, a lobster rostrum historically served as medicine for a variety of urinary diseases."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin rostrum "beak, bill, snout". The speakers' platforms in the Roman Forum were decorated with the "beaks" (= prows) of ships taken in the first naval victory of Rome at Antium in 338 BCE. Rostrum originally meant "means of gnawing", the instrumental noun from Latin rodere "to gnaw". The present participle of rodere is roden(t)s "gnawing", which English adjusted to its rodent. Rodere was inherited from PIE red-/rod- "to scrape, scratch, gnaw", also found in Latin radere "to scrape", underlying the English borrowings like rash, razor, and raze. The same PIE word made its way through English's Germanic ancestors to arrive as Modern English rat. (Today's is one of the less arcane Good Words recommended over the years by the mysterious Grogie who haunts the Agora.)
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