Printable Version
Pronunciation: vayp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To smoke an electronic cigarette, a battery-powered vaporizer that simulates tobacco smoke by producing a vapor (outside the US: vapour), containing just the nicotine of cigarettes .

Notes: I don't usually promote nonce words, words that may be impermanent. I decided to introduce this word because it appeared in the blog of The Economist, one of my favorite magazines. It comes with the usual cast of relatives accompanying English words: vaper, vapes, vaped, and vaping.

In Play: Since the vapor produced by e-cigarettes contains only nicotine and no other harmful chemicals (e.g. tars), vapers have an advantage over smokers: "Oh, you don't have to go outside to vape." The disadvantages to vaping are minor: "All you vapers just add to the humidity!"

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Anglo-French vapour (still spelled with the U outside the US), Modern French vapeur. Puff, puff, that vaporizer All of these go back to Latin vapor "steam, heat". Exactly how vapor came to be in Latin has us stumped. The Proto-Indo-European had a word kwep-"smoke, cook". However, the Greek word for "smoke" was kapnos; Greek lost the W, but Lithuanian retained it, converting it to V in kvapas "smell, wind, whiff". These words have meanings very close to "vapor", and if we could explain the loss of the initial K, we would have the missing link to PIE kwep-, since W before a vowel would have become V in Latin, too. (Vaper or not, we owe Dwaine Byrd a debt of gratitude for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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