Printable Version
Pronunciation: vai-rês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Venom. 2. An electromicroscopic infectious biological entity that can function only within the living cells of a host (animal, plant), and which consists of a nucleic acid molecule (either DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protein coat. 3. A piece of mischievous or malignant computer code capable of replicating itself and infecting other computers via the Internet.

Notes: This word is particularly relevant in 2020 because of the corona virus pandemic. The adjective for it is viral, and the study of viruses is virology, with its family, virologist, virological, etc.

In Play: You don't want to play with viruses: " A large number of viruses emerge from the host cell before it dies." On the other hand, if you call your play 'research' it may be OK: "The idea is to insert genetically corrective genes directly into a patient's cells, using viruses as delivery vehicles."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated in Latin virus "poison, slimy liquid". The meaning was exactly that in Old English, but then proceeded to refer to pus or any fluid produced by an infection, thence to its current sense. Latin derived it word from Proto-Italic weis-o- "poison" with rhoticism applying to the S. Proto-Italic came by its word from PIE weis- "to melt away, to flow", used particularly in relation to malodorous fluids. It is also the source of Sanskrit visam "venom, poison" and visah "poisonous", Latin viscum "sticky substance, birdlime", Greek ios "poison" and ixos "mistletoe, birdlime", Russian višnja "cherry (?!)" and Welsh gwy "poison". (Let's wish Tomasz Kowaltowski a safe escape from the corona virus and thank him for suggesting such a topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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