• swastika •
swah-sti-kê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Wanzi, gammadion, fylfot; a primitive symbol in the form of an X with short extensions of equal length attached at right angles to the ends of each crossbar. 2. The symbol of the Nazi Party in Germany and around the world.
Notes: The symbol named by today's Good Word was first used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun across the sky. Today it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It has no derivational family unless we want to accept swastika'd as an adjective meaning "decorated with or wearing a swastika".
In Play: Today's word is a dangerous word to play with in the West: "The gang of fraternity jerks intended to paint a swastika on the Jewish fraternity house, but in their collective drunken stupor they painted it on the president's." However, it does not carry the same pejorative connotation around the world: "Known as manji in Japanese, the swastika pictogram used on tourist maps in Japan is the reverse of the one used by Nazis: the angles bend counterclockwise."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes directly from Sanskrit svastika-s, "being fortunate", based on svasti-s "well-being, luck". This word comprises su- "well" + asti "(it) is". U becomes V in many languages before a vowel, A in this case. The Sanskrit root su- came from PIE esu- "good", which emerged in ancient Greek as eu- "good". We find it in words borrowed from that language, such as euphoria, eulogy, and eugenic. Cushy, as in 'a cushy job', was borrowed from Urdu khush "good", another word traceable back to esu-. Asti comes from the same source as many words across the Indo-European languages: English is, German ist, French est, and Latin esse "to be". English essence was borrowed from French, which inherited the word from Latin essen(t)s "being", the present participle of esse.
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