• symptom •
simp-têm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Any feature of X that may be taken as an indication of X's existence, especially if X is undesirable, such as a disease.
Notes: Symptom comes with a widely used adjective, symptomatic(al), which comes with an adverb, symptomatically, and a negative adjective, symptomless. We also have a verb, symptomatize, that means "to characterize as a symptom". The study of symptoms is symptomatology, and a description of symptoms is a symtomatography.
In Play: This word is usually associated with doctors and medicine: "The symptoms of COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease) are a cough, fever, fatigue and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing." However, indications of any undesirable condition are fair game for today's word: "More and greater forest fires, rising sea levels, and melting icecaps are symptoms of global warming."
Word History: Today's Good Word is based on Late Latin symptoma, borrowed from Greek symptoma "an accident, disease", the noun from verb of sympiptein "to happen together, coincide" from assimilated form of syn- "(together) with" + piptein "to fall". Syn- was inherited from Proto-Indo-European ksun "with". It is the source, too, of Russian s(o) "(together) with". Piptein was based on the PIE root pi-pt-, a reduplicated form of root pet-/pot- "to flow, to fly". This word went on to become English feather, Greek pteron "wing", as in pterodactyl, a flying dinosaur with fingers on its wings. It also became potamos "river" in Greek as in the English borrowing hippopotamus "river horse". In Russian it turned up in ptica "bird". (Now let's wish Eileen Opiolka no symptoms of the corona virus, as we thank her for suggesting a very topical Good Word for 2020.)
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