Printable Version
Pronunciation: (h)wi-zo Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun, interjection

Meaning: (British slang) 1. (Adjective) Superb, excellent, fine, outstanding, super-bang-on. 2. (Noun) Whizz, something wonderful, someone dazzlingly smart, skillful, or talented. 3. (Interjection) An exclamation of extreme pleasure.

Notes: Today's word was popular British school slang back in the 1970s. It is a slang extension of whizz in the family of righto, daddy-o, and neato, also popular in the 70s. Since words ending on O are all oddities in English, none have derivational families. Some prefer to omit the H and spell this word wizzo, not a bad idea as the Word History will show.

In Play: This word is probably used mostly as an adjective: "Max's treatise is 34 whizzo pages about monetary policy." It also works as a noun: "Franklin is a whizzo at the computer." School kids back in the 70s said things like this: "Oh, whizzo! What a day! I passed my math exam and got a date with Maxine the same day!"

Word History: Whizz started out as wiz, a clipping of wizard. The clipping started out in England, but by the time it reached the US people didn't know what it was, so we confused it with whizz. Wizard originally meant "sage, philosopher", comprising Middle English wyz "wise" + -ard, a personal suffix. Today's wise is a distant cousin to Dutch wijs "wise" and German weise "wise". All these descend from PIE weid- "to see", implying "to know", as in "I see what you're saying." Sanskrit converted this word into vedah "knowledge", German wissen "to know", Polish widzieć "to see" and wiedzieć "to know", Russian videt' "to see" and vest' "news", and Lithuania vysti "to see". In Latin videre means "to see". It forms the basis of English borrowings vision, video. Old French reduced the Latin word to vewe "view", which English borrowed as veiw.

Dr. Goodword,

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