Printable Version
Pronunciation: wi-kee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A collaborative website that allows users to add to, delete, or edit its content. 2. The software for operating such a website.

Notes: Today's Good Word gained popularity with the rise of Wikipedia, a wiki encyclopedia. It has gained notoriety more recently with the appearance of WikiLeaks, a website on which state secrets are being posted. This word is very popular in compound nonce words which may or may not survive: wikiholic, wikihow, wikiinfo, wikicomic, wiktionary, wikiculture, wikidata, wikifiddler. It also sports a new verb, wikify, whose chances of survival are much greater, given the fact that it has already produced a noun, wikification.

In Play: Since today's word began its life on the Web, we associate it most closely with the Web: "Life had Lucinda Head so confused, she created a wiki where anyone who drops by can tell her how to live and argue with others who disagree." However, if it hopes to survive, it must eventually move away from the Web: "Lil Abner lives in a wiki house built by those who happened by, contributing ideas and labor during the building process."

Word History: This word originated in the name of the original wiki, WikiWikiWeb, created by Ward Cunningham in 1995. Cunningham's intention was to write software that would allow websites to be created in the quickest way. Rather than call his invention QuickWeb, he used a Hawaiian creole word for "quick", wiki, after riding a wiki-wiki bus at the Honolulu airport. Wiki is the Hawaii creole version of English quick, which goes back to PIE gwei- "live, to live" + k, a common Indo-European suffix. The PIE root emerged in Latin as vivus "alive" and vita "life". English borrowed many words that these words underlie, including vita itself, as in 'curriculum vita', but also vital, vitamin and vivid, revive. The original meaning of quick was "alive", as in 'the quick and the dead' or 'cut to the quick'.

Dr. Goodword,

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