• vaccinate •
vak-sê-nayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To inject an antigen, such as dead bacteria or a mild virus in order to create antibodies that will protect the vacinee from disease caused by the antigen. The antigen, together with its liquid medium, is called a vaccine.
Notes: This word is interesting on two accounts: its etymology (see below) and the fact that it contains two back-to-back Cs pronounced differently, one hard, one soft. (Occipital and accident are two others.) The verb comes from the noun vaccine and it is the progenitor of a large family itself: vaccinator "someone who vaccinates", vaccinee "someone who is vaccinated", vaccinatory "related to vaccination", and vaccinable "susceptible to vaccination", as a vaccinable disease.
In Play: We hope everyone reading this was vaccinated against flu last fall and is enjoying a flu-free winter: "I stood in line a half hour to get vaccinated for the flu only to discover the line was for Botox treatments." However, since vaccination is a kind of protection against unpleasantness, we find plenty of room for metaphoric leaps: "I wish I could get vaccinated against Phil Anders's sexist remarks; they still rankle me."
Word History: Today's verb is derived from vaccine, which comes from Latin vaccinus "of cows" from vacca "cow" (vache today in French, vaca in Portuguese and Spanish). Apparently, Latin developed its own word for "cow' from vagire "to bellow". Virtually all other Indo-European languages used the original root *gau-, such as Hindi gaya, Serbian krava, German Kuh, English cow. But why cows and vaccination? The word was coined by Edward Jenner when he discovered that anyone injected with the virus of the mild disease, cowpox (Latin vaccinia), obtained from cows, developed an immunity against the much more virulent smallpox. As vaccinations for more and more diseases were discovered, the application of Jenner's term was simply expanded.