Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê-kês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To shake in order to ascertain the contents of something.

Notes: Today's is another Good Word trapped inside the medical profession for too long. It generally means to shake a body or organ to ascertain the liquid or air contents of it. The general meaning, however, is quite relevant to everyday life, a reference to something we do quite frequently but particularly around Christmas. The noun is the expectable succussion and the adjective, succussive, as 'the successive activity around the Christmas tree'.

In Play: We published this word today because we thought it might be useful in this context: "OK, kids, we will have no opening presents until Christmas morning and no succussing them until Christmas Eve." It is, though, used most frequently in medical (or semimedical) contexts: "You think we should produce powdered water? Donovan, should I succuss your skull to see if there is anything in it?"

Word History: Today's Good Word is, with a minor adjustment, succussus "tossed up", the past participle of Latin succutere "to toss up". This verb is a modification of earlier sub "(from) under" + quatere "to shake". The past participle of quatere itself is quassus, which went into a new Latin verb, quassere "to shatter", only mildly reduced in becoming French quasser. English borrowed this word as quash. One other Latin verb based on the same root, exquassere, became esquasser in Old French. English borrowed that one, too, as squash the verb. Latin succutere gave rise to Spanish and Portuguese sacudir, Italian scuotere, and French secouer "to shake".

Dr. Goodword,

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