• vagitus •
vê-jai-tês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The first cry of a new-born baby. 2. The cry or wailing of any small child.
Notes: Apparently, today's intriguing word is so rarely used, no dictionary compiler knows what its plural would be: the Latin vagitus (same as the singular) or English vagituses. You are always safe with the latter. This word is used primarily in medicine, but there is no reason why the rest of us cannot use it, too.
In Play: One of the most important events of human life is the sound of the first cry of a newborn infant: "It was a difficult birth but all the pain was erased by the sound of my new son's vagitus." However, the meaning of this word has important metaphorical implications, too: "The new president's inaugural speech was the vagitus of an era of radical innovation at the college."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin vagitus "the crying, squalling of young children", the noun from the verb vagire "to cry, squall". It presumably comes from some PIE word (s)wagh- "to rustle, murmur", source for sure of English sough "murmur, sigh", Sanskrit vagnu "a cry, sound" and Greek ekho "a sound, echo". Today's word is unrelated to vagina, even though the first thing a baby does when it emerges from the birth canal is squall. In Latin vagina meant only "sheath", though it may have been a slang word for female genitalia. (I think everyone will echo my thanks to M. Henri Day for suggesting such an interesting "garden path" word as we have read about today.)
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